Yet again, Guyana has been implicated in a major international
transshipment of cocaine. This time a whopping 11.5 tonnes intercepted by the Belgian authorities this month at the port of Antwerp amid scrap metal. Yet again, as has been the pattern over the last two decades, it appears that no-one will be held accountable here for the shipment. The police and the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) are fairly adept at apprehending small-scale drug enterprises but have failed at these large-scale cocaine operations which appear to radiate with impunity from these shores even with the presence of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Of grave concern is the fact that the container scanning operations at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) have been compromised. Five containers were scanned on the day in question but images were available from only four. Images for the fifth, the container suspected to have transported the cocaine, have disappeared and cannot be retrieved to date. They appear to have been deliberately deleted as they would have exposed likely incriminating actions by GRA employees.
It appears that the compromising of the scanner also occurred with an earlier container shipment of rice in which cocaine was found at the German port of Hamburg in August. CANU says the same tampering occurred with images and the same personnel were said to have been involved. A renewed investigation has now been launched into the rice shipment.
These breaches point to corruption in the GRA at an important aspect of its operations and it must take urgent steps to address the situation given the security implications for the state. Were these scans tampered with/deleted on site or was this done remotely? Were scans also deleted in the rice shipment to Hamburg? Are the GRA’s cyber defences resilient enough to defend against external penetration? It behoves the GRA to commission an urgent investigation of what transpired and to advise the public. The present situation raises again the concern about whether the GRA has been able to substantially rein in corruption or whether it remains a serious problem not only in the container scanning section but in other aspects of its sprawling operations.
If 11.5 tonnes of cocaine was at any time present on these shores and then repacked into a container which was then exported under the nose of the various law enforcement agencies it underlines again the major problem that the country has faced and continues to face in relation to the drug trade. How could such a massive transshipment operation have occurred without the police or CANU being tipped off by their sources? An operation of this scale would have involved a significant number of persons and complex logistics.
How did the shipment enter this country and where from? Guyana is not a producer of cocaine. Did the cocaine come by air or ship? Either way it would have had to elude the various law enforcement arms. To add insult to injury, the shipment then successfully made its way out of Port Georgetown and evaded any alarum until the Belgian authorities intercepted it.
Now, not even the presumed shipper can be found. Mr Marlon Primo, for whom a wanted bulletin has been issued has vanished. Again, one must call into question the ability of the police force to do its job. Why hasn’t Mr Primo been found? Whether the police force has been compromised or is just operating in a shoddy manner is left to be seen. It could be both as the recent escape of a murder suspect on the Corentyne hints. The Surinamese authorities captured two suspects in the murder of the elderly La Grange shopkeeper, Bibi Nasmonisha Ramjit. Shortly after the Surinamese police had done their job and handed the two suspects to their Guyanese counterparts at Springlands, the alleged mastermind fled the police by using one of the oldest tricks in the book – asking to visit the washroom. This escape also requires an immediate probe and demonstrates the abject lack of professionalism in the police force.
The investigation of the 11.5-tonne shipment of cocaine confirms that there has been no appreciable improvement in counter-narcotics operations and given that PPP/C administrations have not had a good record in this area President Ali and Minister Benn have their work cut out for them.
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