Prosecution closes its case in $550M cocaine-in-lumber trial

The prosecution yesterday closed its case against accused drug traffickers Stephen Vieira, Tazim Gafoor, his son Nazim Gafoor, and Sherwayne De Abreu, who are on trial over the $550 million in cocaine that was found by authorities in dressed lumber last year.

The four men were charged after the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) conducted a raid and found the drugs concealed in dressed lumber on May 12th, 2017. The cocaine was reportedly stashed in lumber at a sawmill at Lookout, East Bank Essequibo, which belonged to Narine Lall, who is still wanted.

The case, which is being heard by Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court, continued yesterday with the testimonies of a Guyana Police Force Fingerprint Analyst, an officer from the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and the owner of the truck that transported the cocaine-laden wood.

Testifying first was the fingerprint analyst, who told the court that though each of the 331 packets of cocaine were checked for fingerprints, nothing was retrieved due to the manner in which the packets were handled and packed.

Frank Peters, the GFC officer, testified to having inspected the lumber at Narine Lall’s sawmill on May 3rd, 2017. Peters also told the court of the confrontation at CANU headquarters with Hakeem Mohamed, who he said had been present during his inspection of the lumber on the said date.

Mohamed, who is the prosecution’s key witness, had said in his evidence-in-chief that he assisted Tazim Gafoor in hiding the parcels of cocaine in the wood as it was being prepared to be shipped out of the country. Mohamed also stated that on the day of the bust by CANU, the truck containing the cocaine-stashed lumber was parked at his residence.

The final witness called by the prosecution was Shafeek Khan, owner of the truck that transported the lumber. Khan, who owns a trucking service, explained in his evidence-in-chief that on May 12th, 2017 he was approached by Mohamed about hiring a truck. The court heard that arrangements were made and the truck along with a driver were assigned to Mohamed for use.

Subsequent to this, Khan said he was informed that the truck became an element of a CANU investigation and he gave a statement to the lead investigator regarding his truck’s involvement.

After Khan’s testimony, Prosecutor Konyo Sandiford closed the prosecution’s case.

The proceedings were then adjourned until October 24th, when the defence is expected to submit written submissions in response.

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