Although mum on whether fugitive drug trafficker Barry Dataram was being monitored prior to his disappearance ahead of his sentencing, acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine yesterday made it clear that law enforcement officials were not to be blamed as they did not grant him his release on bail.
“Hold a minute. Let’s put this thing in the proper perspective. We didn’t grant him bail, comrade. If it were that high profile [a] matter and it was properly regarded by the appropriate people, we were not the ones who granted him bail,” Ramnarine told the media during a press conference yesterday. “I have read statements. I have seen things in the press. Dataram’s situation is really unfortunate… But not in the sense that law enforcement is indicted,” he added.
Dataram, in his absence, was found guilty and in addition to a 60-month sentence was slapped with a $164 million fine on Tuesday.
He, along with his common-law wife Anjanie Boodnarine, Kevin Charran, and Trevor Gouveia were on trial for possession of cocaine for trafficking after the discovery of 129.230 kilogrammes of cocaine (equivalent to 284 pounds) of the drug at a Silver Dam, Fourth Avenue, Diamond Housing Scheme house on April 16, 2015. Boodnarine, Charran and Gouveia were freed owing to insufficient evidence.
Authorities believe that Dataram fled to Suriname and is using a forged foreign travel document. It is suspected that he has left that Dutch-speaking territory for an unknown destination.
Asked whether the police have informed Inter-pol of Dataram’s disappearance and what efforts are being made both locally and regionally to track him down, Ramnarine said a lot of collaboration with international parties was ongoing.
“I am aware that a lot of collaboration is ongoing,” he said. However, he added that he could not disclose the nature of the collaboration.
Ramnarine was asked about Dataram being monitored to minimise the chance of him fleeing and at what point did law enforcement agencies know that he had obtained a forged foreign travel document. “I think I have already said enough on that matter. A lot has been already said on that matter in the press,” he said.
President David Granger has called for “a greater level of alertness” on the part of the magistracy in matters such as Dataram’s in wake of his flight. He also said that a lack of resources to police the country’s borders was in part responsible for the convicted drug trafficker being able to flee before his sentencing.
Asked during the recording of “The Public Interest” interview programme held on Thursday whether he viewed Dataram’s escape as a failure of local law enforcements agencies and what his government would be doing to locate the fugitive, President Granger said that local law enforcement does not possess the resources to effectively monitor the country’s borders and ports. He also explained that the Com-missioner of Police had been instructed to liaise with neighbouring countries, including Suriname, where he was suspected to have gone, to locate him.
“My information is that he is not travelling on a Guyanese passport. So after his disappearance—and we weren’t aware of his disappearance—we continued to work with our partners in the Caribbean to bring him to justice. If he is in Suriname, as is suspected, the Commissioner of Police has been instructed to try to ascertain his whereabouts in neighbouring countries but he is not using a Guyana passport, that much we know,” the Head of State said.
“It is physically impossible to control every kilometre with our present resources. We are working on the acquisition of surveillance aircraft, we are placing mounted police in wide open areas, we are acquiring ATVs and surveillance equipment,” he added.
In an interview with Ministry of the Presidency staff after the recording, President Granger explain-ed that as a “well known… person of interest,” Dataram’s escape was an error that should have been avoided.
“Mr Dataram is a person of interest. He is a well-known character in Guyana and I would expect that even though the judicial branch is separate, there should be a greater level of alertness on the part of the magistracy, in the judiciary, in matters like this and I don’t regard it as a failing on the part of law enforcement agencies but it is definitely an error which ought to have been avoided,” he said.