Materials used for processing drugs tendered as evidence

$550M cocaine-in-lumber case

The contents of a black plastic bag suspected to have been used in the processing of narcotics were tendered on Wednesday as evidence as the trial into the $550M cocaine bust continued.

The materials which were suspected to have been used in the processing of narcotics were discovered in a bin outside the property belonging to accused drug traffickers Tazim and Nazim Gafoor.

Tazim, 49, and his son, Nazim, 21, are currently on trial alongside Stephen Vieira, 34, and Sherwayne De Abreu, 36, for the alleged trafficking of $550 million in cocaine, which was discovered stashed in lumber on May 12th, 2017.

The trial continued on Wednesday with the admittance of the bag and its contents as evidence in the matter, followed by further testimony of the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) officer who had discovered the bag.

Continuing from the previous day’s testimony, the officer told the court that the bag and its contents which included four plastic bowls, two plastic food processor mugs, two stainless steel pot spoons and a whitish piece of cloth, were taken to the Police Crime Lab where the contents were dusted for fingerprints. However, the court heard that no fingerprints were retrieved.

He further noted that a certificate of analysis along with statements from the evidence officer and science officer which were also tendered as evidence on Wednesday, had been uplifted.

The officer was also cross-examined by attorney Glen Hanoman, who questioned the officer on the absence of an orange plastic bag which had been photographed during the discovery of the garbage bag in the bin. 

Hanoman questioned the officer on whether there were any other bins present in front of the property at the time of the search and whether any other bags were removed from the black garbage bag.

 The officer in his response explained that he could not recall whether other bins were there, but that no items were removed from the black bag after it was discovered by CANU officers.

 It was this response that prompted Hanoman to present the witness with photographs which had been previously tendered as evidence. In the photos, an orange plastic bag was seen protruding from inside the black garbage bag being held by a man, later identified as the officer himself.

 The attorney further suggested to the officer that the bag that was tendered in court on Wednesday was not the same as the one in the photo, a suggestion that the officer shot down. He was nevertheless, questioned about the absence of the orange bag in Wednesday’s proceedings, to which the officer suggested that the bag might have fallen out.

Hanoman then moved to question the officer on the chain of custody, even suggesting that he may have broken the seal on the black bag, and removed the orange bag before resealing it.

The officer, however, vehemently denied the attorney’s accusation, noting that when the bag was not under his control, it was lodged with CANU’s storekeeper inside the organization’s headquarters.

Questions were also asked regarding the time at which the bag was lodged with the storekeeper since according to Hanoman, the piece of evidence had not been lodged until May 13, one day after the drug bust was made.

However, the officer in his response, explained to the court that he had other duties to perform on the evening of May 12, which included offering assistance in the offloading of the lumber taken into custody following the bust.

 He further noted that during that time, the bag and its contents were secured in his vehicle which was parked inside CANU’s compound; he said that the bag stayed there until early the next day when it was lodged with the storekeeper.

 The case is scheduled to continue before Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool on July 31.

On May 12th, 2017, CANU conducted a raid and found the drugs concealed in dressed lumber.

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.

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