– CANU head
The interception of more than $130 million worth of cocaine at the Cheddi Jagan Inter-national Airport, Timehri (CJIA) on Sunday is an indication that law enforcement officials are working hard to ensure that illegal drugs do not leave Guyana via the port, Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) James Singh says.
“I can assure you as law enforcement takes the necessary steps, the persons are so desperate that they would try other means. The fact that it [cocaine] is being found shows that law enforcement continues to be vigilant. It shows that we have to be more aggressive, more proactive in ensuring that the entire area is properly monitored,” he said, after the conclusion of the opening ceremony for the Drug Investigators Course at Eve Leary yesterday.
Singh declined to give much information, saying investigations into the two busts are ongoing. Four persons are in police custody, he noted.
CANU officials discovered 28 kilogrammes of cocaine in a suitcase that was already on a Caribbean Airlines flight bound for New York.
When asked how a large amount of cocaine could have ended up on a plane, Singh referred the query elsewhere. “I think that you should ask the airline officials that,” he said, later noting that the fact that the drugs are passing security at the “front” of the airport means that they are certain areas that security officials now need to pay attention to.
He said CANU is working through the task force set up by the Home Affairs Ministry and in collaboration with other stakeholders to ensure “it remains vigilant and free from anybody moving drugs into that area on aircraft and in passenger luggage.”
Singh said that if during the course of the investigation it was found that officers from CANU or any agency were involved, the necessary action would be taken.
Asked if CANU will be cooperating with a Commis-sion of Inquiry (COI) being conducted by Roraima Airways following a cocaine bust at CJIA, he replied in the affirmative. In that case, a Roraima Airways employee was among two people arrested and charged after 1.86 kilogrammes of the drug were intercepted in a bag on a food cart that was about to be taken to a Delta Airlines plane. “We will cooperate regardless. CANU, the police and the other agencies are part of a task force, so we are ensuring that the proper investigation is carried out to see where the weak areas are so that we can strengthen them,” Singh added.
He said that while everyone is concerned about how the drugs are making their way into the airport, they are trying their best “to identify those areas so that we can strengthen them.”
Meanwhile, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud told reporters that more than a year ago a technical team had recommended that more cameras be installed around the airport but this initiative was hampered by lack funding.
He said the recommendations had specified the type of cameras needed and where they should be placed.
Singh told Stabroek News on Sunday that officers attached to the agency discovered some 28 kilos of the illicit substance during an operation in which the luggage on board Caribbean Airlines flight 526 bound for New York was searched after the aircraft had already been loaded and was preparing to depart. The officers had received a tip around lunch-time. Later the luggage on board was taken off and searched by anti-narcotics agents. The drugs were found in a suitcase, in which the tag of an item of passenger luggage had been switched. In the second operation, a small quantity of the drug was found in an airport stair truck by airport security who alerted the police.
The smaller operation, in which 2 kilos of cocaine were discovered in a package on board the airport stair truck, may have been planned as a diversion to facilitate the passage of the cocaine-filled suitcase on the plane.
Reports are that an employee attached to the New Timehri Handling Service was taking over the shift from another colleague when he observed a suspicious package on board the stair truck. He refused to take over the shift and immediately raised an alarm.