CANU officer tells court of two-month surveillance of racers

Cocaine in lumber case

The three motor racers charged in a $550m cocaine-in-lumber case had been under surveillance by the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) for two months prior to the bust on May 12, 2017.

This was stated by CANU officer, Linden Thompson when he testified in the continuing trial on February 8th at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court.

On trial are motor racers Stephen Vieira, Tazim Gafoor and his son, Nazim Gafoor  and Sherwayne De Abreu.

Motor biker Vieira, 33, of Middle and Cummings streets, Georgetown; along with De Abreu, 35, of Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara; and motor racers Tazim Gafoor, 45, and his son, Nazim Gafoor, 20, of Windsor Forest, West Coast Demerara were charged jointly on May 31, 2017.

Sherwayne De Abreu in court today. Stephen Vieira is behind him.

The men are accused of having in their possession 84.9 kilos of cocaine between March 1 and May 12, 2017 at Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo.

Thompson led by CANU Prosecutor, Konyo Sandiford testified that he first began to monitor the movements of Vieira and Tazim Gafoor on March 13, 2017 after receiving instructions from his superior officer. He told the court that at around 2 pm on the said day, he was sent to cover a meeting between Tazim Gafoor and Vieira at Houston, East Bank Demerara. Thompson said that while he was in front of Gafoors Hardware Store, he observed the men conversing in front of E.C. Vieira Investment, which is also located at Houston.

During cross-examination by defence attorney Latchmi Rahamat, Thompson admitted that he was unable to hear the conversation between Vieira and Gafoor.

Thompson further told the court that on the 11th of April 2017, he led a team of CANU ranks to observe the movements of Vieira at Cooper and Hunter streets in Albouystown.  He said while he was present at the location Vieira went to the home of one Mark Mohabir but he could not see directly what was transpiring. He said he parked and waited on instructions from his superiors but sometime after he was instructed to return to CANU headquarters.

However, in his cross-examination he mentioned for the first time that he was at the location to observe if Vieira was receiving any package.

As Thompson continued his testimony, he told the court that on April 12, he continued his surveillance duties at Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo. He stated that while he was there he was on the lookout for a Sliver pitbull minibus that was allegedly used by Nazim Gafoor to uplift packages of cocaine.

He stated that after waiting for some time and not seeing his target in the vicinity of the Tuschen Market he decided to drive to Universal Supermarket located at Lot ‘F’ New Road, Vreed-en–Hoop. However, while he was in the vicinity of Uitvlugt, he spotted the minibus behind a canter truck. He testified further that he turned around and followed the canter and the minibus. While they were in the Cornelia Ida area, both vehicles turned through Bus Shed Street. It was at this point, Thompson told the court that he exited his vehicle from the main road and walked behind the two vehicles. As he was approaching them, both the canter and the minibus drove around a corner and the drivers were seen engaged in a conversation and they subsequently drove off.

The officer said he returned to his vehicle and decided to pass by the Gafoors’ residence at Windsor Forest to obverse if any unusual activities were taking place, before he returned to the CANU Headquarters.

The CANU rank further told the court that on May 12th, he continued his surveillance mission at around 1pm from outside the compound of the Universal Supermarket. While he was there, he said that he observed Vieira and the elder Gafoor engaged in a discussion but was forced to abort his mission after Gafoor’s wife kept looking at his car and he did not want his mission to be compromised.

The surveillance mission continued at around 6 pm on the said evening, Thompson told the court. He stated that when he returned he noticed Nazim Gafoor walking out of the supermarket compound with a black plastic bag in his hand and placing it into a “green-ish” garbage bin. It was at this point he informed his superior who arrived 30 minutes later with a team of ranks.  He said upon the arrival of his superior, his superior  went to Nazim Gafoor while one of the ranks went to the bin to retrieve the contents from the bag that was disposed earlier.

During his evidence-in-chief, Thompson did not disclose what was found.

He said he returned to the supermarket  and retrieved a makeshift compressor in the presence of Tazim Gafoor. He also disclosed to the court that on one occasion after May 12th he visited a sawmill on the East Bank of Essequibo where he observed chalk-like markings on the walls of the office.

Thompson at the conclusion of his testimony identified Vieira and the two Gafoors in court as the persons he was speaking of in his testimony.

Rahamat in continuing her cross-examination put to the rank that he never knew Vieira before his arrest and that he relied on third party information. Thompson agreed but stated that he was furnished with a picture of Vieira and upon seeing him he was able to identify him.

The defence attorney also suggested to the rank that he has no evidence to show to the court that he saw Vieira conversing with Gafoor and visiting the residence of Mohabir, to which he agreed.

Rahamat also suggested to Thompson that he was not aware that there is more than one Stephen Vieira living in Guyana and he agreed. This prompted the attorney to make an application before the court for Thompson to check the records of GECOM to show that there is more than one Stephen Vieira, however the application was denied as Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool said that she did not see the need for such action at this time. She noted that the witness never made any mention of a second Stephen Vieira.

The witness is expected to return today for further cross-examination by other defence attorneys, Nigel Hughes and Everton Singh-Lammy.

On May 12, CANU conducted a raid and found the drugs concealed in dressed lumber at Hackeem Mohamed’s premises at Lot 227 Zeelugt.

The cocaine which carries a street value of over $550 million was reportedly stashed in lumber at a sawmill at Lookout, East Bank Essequibo, belonging to Narine Lall, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued.

Reports are that a truck was hired to pick up and transport the lumber from Lall’s Sawmill to a wharf at Georgetown.

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