Search of sawmill was delayed over safety concerns – CANU officer

$550M cocaine in wood trial

The search of the sawmill allegedly used to pack cocaine into pieces of dressed lumber was delayed as a result of concerns for the safety of the CANU officers and the security of the narcotics which had been discovered.

 This was disclosed by a CANU officer during cross-examination by attorney Glenn Hanoman, as 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 continued on Tuesday at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court.

The sawmill which is located at Parika, East Bank Essequibo, belongs to Narine Lall who was also fingered in the matter but continues to evade the police.

Hanoman in his cross-examination of the witness asked whether any surveillance was conducted on the sawmill or Lall himself, as had been the case with Vieira and the Gafoors, to which the officer responded in the negative. 

The officer also told the court that prior to May 10, 2017 he had no knowledge of who Lall was, and that it was after the drug bust was made that he received information regarding Lall.

Further questioning by the defence lawyer led to questions regarding the decision not to pursue Lall on the day of the bust, to which the officer said, “flow of operations and time” prevented them from visiting the sawmill on the said day. 

Hanoman’s questions also led to an acknowledgement by the officer that they knew the wood had come from Lall’s sawmill, followed by an admission that he believes that they should have gone as quickly as they could to the sawmill.

When asked why they had not done so, the officer said, “We had to consider the security of the ranks and the narcotics and given the time I did not think it was wise to go to the sawmill.”

Hanoman in his follow up question asked if the same consideration was given when they decided to stop at Gafoors’ property at New Road, Vreed-en-Hoop, after the drugs were discovered.

This was followed by Hanoman’s suggestion that by delaying the visit to Lall’s sawmill, CANU had failed to follow other possible leads and that the officers were “singularly obsessed with Gafoors and Vieira” that he ignored possible leads.

 However, the officer denied both accusations.

The case is scheduled to continue on June 12 before Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool. 

On May 12, 2017, 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 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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