Cops among quartet charged over plot to smuggle birds to US

A charge of receiving money to smuggle finches through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri was read to two policemen yesterday, while another charge of conspiring to smuggle the birds was also read to them and two civilians.

Appearing before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan to answer to the charges were Alex Haywood, of Tuschen Housing Scheme, who is attached to the Criminal Investigation Department ((CID), Denzil Williams, 35, of Timehri, a Special Constable stationed at the Tactical Services Unit (TSU), Pramraj Ram, 31, of Lot 6 Lusignan East, East Coast Demerara (ECD) and Gregory Ramkellawan, 40, of Good Hope, ECD.

The charge read to Heywood and Williams states that between November 1st, 2018, and December 8th, 2018, at the CJIA, being agents of the state, they corruptly obtained from Ram for themselves and persons unknown, the sum of $600,000, as an inducement or reward for allowing Ramkellawan to export a quantity of finches through CJIA without authorisation of the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission or another competent authority.

The final charge, which was read to all four accused, stated that the quartet between November 1st, 2018 and December 8th, 2018, at CJIA, conspired with each other and persons unknown to export a quantity of finches through CJIA, without the authorisation of the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission or another competent authority.

Not guilty pleas were entered by each defendant to the charges read to them.

Attorney Mark Conway, who represented the quartet, requested that they be granted reasonable bail, given the fact that they have cooperated with the investigations.

Police prosecutor Gordon Mansfield made no objection to bail being granted but requested that they continue to report to CID headquarters.

Bail was later granted to the civilians in the sum of $100,000, while the policemen were granted a total of $150,000. The matter was then adjourned until March 8th.

The plot was reportedly uncovered after Ramkellawan smuggled 70 live finches inside hair rollers into the US and was later deported after being caught there last December.

The New York Post had reported last December that federal authorities had busted a Guyanese man at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when he tried to enter the country with the birds. The man, who was not named, had just arrived at the Queens airport on a flight from Georgetown on December 8th when US Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists stopped him. During the course of inspection, the specialists discovered 70 finches concealed in orange hair rollers inside a black duffel bag. The traveler was not admitted to the US and was instead returned to Guyana, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said.

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