The man who shipped shrimp which was intercepted in New York last week with US$12M ($2.4B) worth of cocaine concealed inside yesterday turned himself over to local law enforcement authorities saying that he wants to clear his name.
There in ongoing collaboration between US officials and their counterparts in Guyana into this bust which is the biggest in recent times of a shipment originating from here and it points to an elaborate scheme involving persons both here and in the US. Observers say there will be pressure on the new government to ensure that its law enforcement authorities can construct an airtight case and have charges brought.
The shipper who has since been identified as Imrain Khan, is now being questioned by police and ranks from the Custom Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU).
His attorney Glen Hanoman when contacted yesterday confirmed that he took his client to the police narcotics division located at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary where he left him. Hanoman told Stabroek News that he has advised his client that he should be prepared to spend the next 72 hours in police custody as is permitted according to the law. Khan would have gone to Eve Leary during the early afternoon hours yesterday.
Neither the Police nor CANU issued a wanted bulletin for Khan since the story appeared in the local media and asked why he would have turned up at Police Headquarters, Hanoman said that given the fact that he was the person who shipped the container with the shrimp his client knew that he would be a person of interest to investigators.
He said that Khan came to him and based on advice he took him to the police. “He wants to cooperate and clear his name”, the attorney stressed as he sought to explain why his client would have voluntarily turned himself in to police.
At the US end, Lusignan businessman 59-year-old Heeralall Sukdeo who is the owner of Sukdeo Sons Fishing, a shipping company based in Queens, New York has been arrested and is being held without bail in a US jail. Sukdeo who also has a branch of his company at Lusignan and whose local address is Courbane Park, Annandale, East Coast Demerara has said he was innocent of any wrongdoing, according to the New York Daily News.
CANU Head James Singh informed Stabroek News that local authorities were in search of Khan since he shipped the shrimp but he turned himself in yesterday. He said that local authorities have been in contact with their counterparts about the cocaine found in the shipment that left Guyana early June and as a result of information shared a local investigation is being conducted.
The New York Daily News had reported that a drug-sniffing dog noticed something fishy about a shipping container that arrived at the Red Hook Terminal from Guyana last week and hunted down 268 kilos of cocaine stuffed inside frozen shrimp.
According to a complaint by U.S. Homeland Security special agent Ryan Varrone unsealed on Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court, agents secretly removed the coke-filled crustaceans and tailed the container after it cleared customs on June 15. The container was delivered to an unidentified warehouse in Brooklyn on Monday where agents spotted Sukdeo “together with others … organizing and supervising the unloading” of the shipment, the complaint states.
Varrone said too that “Sukdeo stated that he was present only in the vicinity of the truck containing the target shipment because he was curious about its contents”.
Sources indicated to Stabroek News yesterday that apart from Sukdeo, about four other persons are also now in US custody after they would have travelled to the US to find out about the businessman from whom they had not heard.
Meanwhile relatives, employees and persons living in the Lusignan and Annandale area say that they are in shock at what has transpired.
The local branch of Sukdeo’s fishing company is located at Lot 1, Pump Road Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. When Stabroek News visited, the office was empty and no activity was taking place although doors leading into the business were open. No employee was in sight but this newspaper was told that one of the man’s daughters had just visited saying that they now needed to secure a lawyer for him. She did not provide anyone with any details on what has transpired with Sukdeo expect to say that he had been arrested.
Sukdeo is the uncle of Bridgette Gangadin who was killed back in 2010 under questionable circumstances which led to a row between her relatives and the family of her husband. Sukdeo was instrumental in providing the necessary financial support needed to bring in a Trinidadian pathologist to conduct an independent autopsy. That autopsy later led to her husband Dwarka Gangadin being charged with murder. However in 2012 he was freed based on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions who concluded that there was insufficient evidence for an indictment.
Relatives yesterday strongly expressed the view that Sukdeo was set up. “He does export fish not shrimp”, relatives said adding that it could be that after packing the shipment and locking the container with the seafood, someone forced their way in and replaced the consignment with the cocaine laden shrimp. The relatives were adamant that drug trafficking was not in Sukdeo’s nature and as such they found it hard to believe that he would have knowledge about the cocaine.
One relative said that they only became aware of his arrest and the details on Thursday. The relative said too that his wife left for the US earlier in the week after she would have been told that he had been detained but she did not inform relatives. “It could be that she didn’t want to alarm us”, the relative said in response to queries as to why she would want to keep this information secret.
The relatives that this newspaper spoke with were certain that his arrest was a mistake and they said that a thorough investigation would clear him of any wrongdoing.
The Daily News reported that the shipment had originated in Guyana and was addressed to “Randolph Fraser” which is apparently Sukdeo’s alias, an employee told the feds. However relatives told Stabroek News that “Randolph Fraser” is one of the man’s employees.
This newspaper was told that Sukdeo entered the fishing business at the age of 16 and sometime later he switched to exporting fish. He would have been in the fishing business for 20 odd years they said adding that at no time did he find himself in this sort of trouble. “This is why this thing is such a shock because all this time he doing this fishing wuk and you never here that he involve in this kinda thing”.
A former employee also said that she was shocked particularly since it appeared as though the businessman would struggle to pay workers. “Sometime they nah wan pay yuh, is suh they use to deh like they struggling”, the employee said while adding that Sukdeo never operated like a man who was doing drugs. The employee said that they have known the man for over 20 years and never heard of him being involved in this kind of business. The former employee said too that at one time the man had a fishing business in Suriname but it was subsequently closed down. The employee said that the reasons were unknown to them. The employee said that the man spends a lot of his time in Suriname.
Several current employees yesterday questioned whether the fishing operations would be closed down as they depended on it for income. One of the employees described him as a “simple man” and someone it would be hard to link to drug activities.
Meanwhile, this newspaper was told that over the years, Sukdeo had scaled down his operations at Lusignan. He has rented out a portion of the business to two persons and would occasionally use the remaining part for fish export purposes.
One source said that no law enforcement official has visited the premises to conduct investigations or speak to anyone about the operations there. The man recalled seeing Sukdeo’s wife at the business earlier in the week and she give no indication that that he was in trouble. He like everyone else said that what he was reading in the newspaper came as a shock.