Less than 24 hours after being caught in an apartment in Paramaribo, Suriname, fugitive drug trafficker Barry Dataram and his common-law wife, Anjanie Boodnarine, were yesterday returned to Guyana, while the Ministry of Presidency announced an investigation into how they got fake passports to skip the country.
Dataram and Boodnarine, who disappeared ahead of their September 27 sentencing for cocaine trafficking, were arrested by the Suriname police corps’ SWAT team on Friday afternoon.
When arrested, they were found in possession of Guyana passports in the names of “David Persaud” and “Christine Persaud,” purportedly issued in April, 2013, and January, 2016, respectively.
Stabroek News was told by sources that the authorities believe that the passports were backdated and that they were given to the couple around the time that they disappeared.
Reliable sources told this newspaper that the couple had very little money in their possession but had already finalised preparations to leave the country when they were caught. Initially, law enforcement officials here had confirmed that Dataram left Guyana for Suriname using a forged travel document and subsequently left for an unknown destination.
Stabroek News was also told that there was no official record of him leaving Guyana. This newspaper was told his original passport was collected by the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) following his arrest in April and was part of the agency’s exhibits.
‘Harshest possible action’
Acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine, asked whether the force has initiated an investigation into how the couple came to be in possession of the passports, would only say, “We are investigating.”
Hours later, the Ministry of Presidency announced that according to the Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix, a full investigation has been launched to determine the circumstances under which the couple was issued with the documents and that those who are found culpable would face the “harshest possible action.”
Minister Felix was reported in a Ministry statement as saying that the passports are now in the possession of the police and that the investigation will seek to determine the circumstances under which they were issued, who and what documents were involved in their preparation and the method of the husband and wife’s departure from Guyana.
The statement said that the Ministry of Citizenship, which has responsibility for immigration services, inherited a number of challenges related to the integrity of systems, when the new administration took office in May, 2015 and has been working to correct them.
Sources told Stabroek News that the couple arrived at Moleson Creek just before 10am on the Guyana-Suriname ferry in the company of Surinamese law enforcement agents. They were immediately taken into custody by local authorities.
Under heavy security, they were transported to Georgetown. A shackled and handcuffed Dataram, who was clad in a blue t-shirt and khaki three quarter pants–the same clothing he was wearing when arrested in Suriname—was observed walking into the Camp Street jail shortly after 2pm.
Stabroek News was told that Boodnarine was taken to the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters, at Eve Leary.
Meanwhile, the police force, in statement on the arrest of Dataram and his handing over to local authorities, said Ramnarine wishes to acknowledge the excellent collaboration between local law enforcement units and their counterparts in Suriname.
“While he is fully aware of the same quality of collaboration from Government to Government, that which occurred between 13:00h. yesterday (Friday) and 09:00h. this morning (Saturday), represented the best efforts and sends a clear message that with the use of science and technology in law enforcement and personnel who are consummate professionals, the public interest is well served,” it said.
The force also extended its thanks and appreciation to its counterpart in Suriname. Dataram and his wife were, along with two others, charged with possession of 129.23kg of cocaine for trafficking after the drugs were uncovered at a Diamond, East Bank Demerara house on April 16, 2015. In his absence, Dataram was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, while the others were found not guilty due to a lack of evidence. In addition to the prison sentence, Dataram was fined $164M.
Though the magistrate had remanded Dataram following his first court appearance, he filed proceedings in the High Court and was granted $3M bail. So far, police have provided no explanation as to why Dataram was not under surveillance ahead of his scheduled sentencing.
Earlier this year, Dataram, in a televised interview, had accused CANU officials of corruption but his claims were deemed to have no merit by a Board of Inquiry that was set up to investigate. CANU has expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the drug trafficking matter and his filed as appeal with regards to the three accused who were acquitted.
Dataram’s escape was seen as a major embarrassment for the security services here, and put particular scrutiny on the judiciary and the police force with regards to the granting of bail and the monitoring of high profile defendants.
“If I put police to look at everyone on bail, it will be extremely difficult,” Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had said last Friday, while adding that law enforcement authorities have their eyes on narco-traffickers but Dataram managed to “get under the radar.”