CANU officer testifies to searching properties in cocaine-in-timber case

Sherwayne De Abreu

A Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) agent yesterday testified to searching the properties of two of the drug trafficking accused, following the $550M cocaine bust at Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo in May last year.

This disclosure was made by a  senior CANU rank (who is not being named for security reasons) during the trial of Stephen Vieira, 33, Sherwayne De Abreu, 35, Tazim Gafoor, 45, and his son, Nazim Gafoor, 20, over the trafficking of $550 million in cocaine stashed in lumber.

The officer, in his evidence-in-chief, told the court that on May 12, the day of the drug bust, he, along with other CANU officers, travelled to Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo, where he saw the truck GSS 4748 parked, and witnessed the offloading of dressed greenheart lumber and the drilling of holes in said lumber by another officer. He related that that led to the eventual discovery of what was then suspected to be narcotics, in the wood.

He noted that afterwards, the truck was repacked with the lumber and was taken to CANU Headquarters, along with several suspects.

The witness noted that the officers also stopped at a property which reportedly belongs to Tazim Gafoor at New Road, Vreed-en-Hoop, where they conducted a search and removed a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) from a front building which housed an internet café before proceeding back to the CANU Headquarters.

He also disclosed that the DVR they had removed from Gafoor’s property, was taken to the Guyana Forensic Science Lab on May 16, but said they were unable to obtain any useful information from it.

Further, it was noted by the CANU Officer that he and another from the Guyana Forensic Science Lab had returned to the property on May 14 and swabbed the office of Tazim Gafoor, located upstairs of the supermarket which sat on the property, for narcotic residue.

According to the officer, a similar search was done on the Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo home of Narine Lall, as well as the sawmill he owned where the cocaine was reportedly stashed.

Based on what was disclosed in court, the search of Lall’s home was done in the presence of his father-in-law and yielded pieces of carved wood, while the search of the sawmill yielded paste, wood and a container of red paint.

Meanwhile, attempts were also made to locate the residence of Stephen Vieira, however, the initial address obtained led them to a playground. The CANU officer said they eventually made their way to an uncle of the accused in Houston, where he learnt of an apartment where Vieira was said to be living.

While Vieira was not present at the time of the visit, they were able to verify with the owner of the building that Vieira resided there.

In addition to the evidence given regarding the searches conducted, the CANU officer said he had on two occasions spoken with an officer of the Container Control Unit stationed at the John Fernandes wharf, Georgetown, about the shipment of dressed greenheart lumber, which was destined for the US.

The case is expected to continue on May 15, at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court, with cross-examination being conducted by the defence counsel.

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, which belonged 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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