Businessman, former drug enforcement officer jailed, fined $178M over cocaine in lumber

-motor racers acquitted

Businessman Tazim Gafoor and former Drug Enforcement Officer Sherwayne De Abreu were yesterday found guilty and sentenced to five years in jail for possession of 187 pounds of cocaine found in lumber in 2017, while their co-accused, motor racers Stephen Vieira and Nazim Gafoor, were acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

Tazim Gafoor, who is the father of Nazim, and De Abreu were also fined $178.5 million by Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool, who handed down the verdicts at the Leonora Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

The four men were on trial for allegedly having 84.9 kilogrammes of cocaine in their possession between March 1st and May 12th, 2017 at Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo, for trafficking.

The cocaine was reportedly stashed in lumber at a sawmill that belonged to Narine Lall, who is still wanted.

Magistrate Liverpool, in her delivery of the verdicts, explained that it was the testimony of Hakeem Mohamed, whom the prosecution heavily relied upon throughout the year-long trial, which contributed to each verdict.

According to the magistrate, though she extensively considered the dangers of relying on Mohamed’s testimony, considering his frank acknowledgment of being involved in the crime and him being considered by the court to be a principal accomplice, she found that he provided compelling testimony and proved to be a reliable witness.

The magistrate noted that it was from Mohamed’s testimony that she derived the guilty verdicts for the senior Gafoor and De Abreu. It was noted that he had previously told the court of his encounters with Tazim, specifically assisting him to pack the drugs in the hollowed out lumber and of the instance where he allegedly witnessed De Abreu handing over narcotics to Tazim before they were later packed in the shipment of wood.

However, she did not share the same sentiments when it came to Vieira and Nazim Gafoor, as she considered the evidence presented to the court in their regard to be circumstantial and speculative.

It was noted that this was especially the case as it related to Vieira and Magistrate Liverpool found that surveillance conducted on him was circumstantial and had cause for speculation. The magistrate also noted that there was not enough evidence to provide inference that he knew of the narcotics in the shipment or that he aided Mohamed and as a result he was found not guilty.

Similarly, Liverpool contended that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Nazim Gafoor had been complicit in the trafficking of the drugs and he too was found not guilty.

Meanwhile, in a plea of mitigation, attorney Nigel Hughes, who represented De Abreu, asked the magistrate to consider his unblemished record as a drug enforcement officer, citing the testimony of Fabian Stuart, the Manager of the Drug Enforcement Unit, who had appeared as a character witness on behalf of his former employee. “De Abreu was undoubtedly one of the most successful officers of the unit and was responsible for over 90 of the seizures,” Stuart had told the court during his

appearance in court last December.

Further, Hughes asked the court to give favourable consideration to De Abreu’s contribution to law enforcement over the years before requesting that the court impose upon De Abreu the minimal sentence. Attorney Glen Hanoman, who represented Tazim Gafoor, asked the magistrate to consider the time spent on remand during the initial stages of the court case.

He also told the court that this was the first time Gafoor had been brought before the court for a matter of such nature.

Notwithstanding their arguments, Magistrate Liverpool told the court that the imposed sentence should be proportionate to the crime and to reflect the responsibility of the defendants in the matter. She also noted that the sentence should reflect society’s condemnation of trafficking and must send a strong message to discourage potential offenders.

Both Hughes and Hanoman gave notice to the court of their intentions to appeal the decisions.

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