Defence queries lack of surveillance evidence

Cocaine in lumber case against racers

The absence of photo and video evidence from the alleged surveillance of Stephen Vieira and Tazim Gafoor was called into question by defence attorney Glen Hanoman, when the trial into the $550 million cocaine in lumber case continued yesterday at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court.

Motor biker Vieira, 33, of Middle and Cummings streets, Georgetown; along with Sherwayne 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.

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.

On the previous occasion, CANU Officer Linden Thompson in his evidence-in-chief told the court that Vieira and Tazim Gafoor had been under surveillance for two months prior to the May 12 drug bust.  The trial continued yesterday with the cross-examination of Thompson by attorneys Glen Hanoman and Everton Lammy-Singh.

Hanoman in his cross-examination of the witness questioned the man’s experience in conducting surveillance, as well as why no attempt was made to capture photographic or video evidence during the occasions he was asked to surveille the men. Hanoman also asked whether Thompson had not known beforehand that he would have been undertaking surveillance activity. Thompson in his response said he was aware that he was going to be doing surveillance and while no camera equipment was used during his surveillance, he had his cellphone with him. This prompted Hanoman to ask whether any photos had been taken with the cell phone. However, Thompson shared with the court that at that time his battery was low.

Hanoman continued his cross-examination by asking the CANU Officer whether Tazim Gafoor had at any other time been under surveillance by the drug agency. Thompson’s initial response was to say that he did not want to answer that question since CANU often conducts surveillance.  However, CANU Prosecutor Konyo Sandiford interjected and asked Thompson to answer the question, at which time, the officer told the court that Tazim Gafoor had been under surveillance by CANU on other occasions not mentioned before in court.

The trial has been adjourned to March 19, when it will be heard again by Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool.

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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