Five charged, remanded over 100-pound Parika drugs bust

From left in handcuffs are Doodnauth Chattergoon, Rajendra Persaud, Khemraj Lall, Marlon Lawrence and Cleve Thornhill, all of whom were charged yesterday at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court with trafficking cocaine and cannabis.

Five men were yesterday remanded to jail after appearing at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court on charges of drug trafficking, following the discovery of over 100 pounds of cocaine and cannabis. 

Khemraj Lall, 39, Marlon Lawrence, 36, Rajendra Persaud, 47, Cleve Thornhill, and Doodnauth Chattergoon, 36, were charged with trafficking 13.8 kilogrammes (equivalent to 30 pounds) of cocaine  and 35 kilogrammes (77 pounds) of cannabis on June 6th, at Parika. 

All five men pleaded not guilty to the charge with the exception of Thornhill, the alleged captain of the boat that transported the two drums containing the drugs, who admitted to transporting the drums with the caveat that he had no knowledge of what was inside them.

The containers that the drugs were found in (CANU photo)

Thornhill said he was instructed to transport the drums from Charity to Parika, where he would later pass it off to a waiting taxi at the Parika wharf.

Meanwhile, Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) prosecutor Konyo Sandiford told the court that the men were intercepted on June 6th at Parika, East Bank Essequibo, with two 15-gallon gasoline drums with parcels containing cocaine and cannabis concealed inside.

Sandiford noted that Thornhill was taken into custody after it was found that he and Chattergoon had assisted in the delivery of the drugs. 

She noted that on June 6th, CANU had received information regarding a shipment of drugs arriving at Parika from Charity via a speedboat. As a result, officers proceeded to the West Bank Demerara, where they received additional information about vehicles bearing licence plates PSS 8019 and PVV 7934.

It was further explained that vehicle PSS 8019 was intercepted along the Parika Public Road with Lawrence and Persaud. A search of the vehicle revealed two blue 15-gallon gas bottles with the bottoms of each cut. They were engineered in such a way that they were secured with wire and covered with brown paste. A further examination of the bottles revealed several packages containing leaves, seeds and stems, suspected to be cannabis, and parcels containing a powdery whitish substance, suspected to be cocaine. The discovery was said to have resulted in the interception of the other vehicle.

The packaged drugs (CANU photo)

It was noted that Thornhill had reportedly admitted to being the captain of the speedboat and had accompanied officers to the wharf, where he identified the vessel.

Further investigations were done and the men, including Thornhill, were arrested and taken to CANU headquarters, where the contents of the drums were emptied in their presence. 

However, attorney Bernard Da Silva, who represented Lall and Chattergoon, in his bail application for the two men argued that the narcotics were not found on his clients, whom he said were merely seated in a car a short distance away from where CANU officers had been conducting a search.  He further noted that there was no admission of guilt by either of his clients.

Sandiford, who objected to bail being granted, told the court that the charge instituted against the men was one for trafficking and not possession. She further noted that there is substantial evidence to link all the men to the offence. 

Additionally, she told the court that Persaud had been convicted for drug trafficking in the United States, where he had served time before being deported to Guyana. 

As a result, Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool ordered that the men be remanded to prison until July 3rd.

In the case of Thornhill, who had pleaded guilty, the magistrate allowed him the opportunity to seek legal advice before the next court date.

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