As investigations continue into the US$1.06 billion drug bust in Belgium earlier this month, Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), James Singh related that Guyana was used as a transhipment point.
The 11.5 tonnes of cocaine reportedly shipped from Guyana and was intercepted upon arrival at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium.
But according to Singh, investigations have so far revealed that the huge quantity of the drug was imported to Guyana from another country after which it was stockpiled and then loaded into the container and ultimately onto the vessel which reportedly left Guyana in September.
Singh added that with the disappearance of images of the scanned container, the work of the drug enforcement unit gets even tougher. This, he reiterated, proves that there was definitely collusion between the “big fishes” and staff members of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
On this note, Singh told Guyana Times that the members of staff of the revenue body who were detained had to be released since the 72-hour detention period had expired. More so, he stated that little information was gathered from them during interrogation.
“We have established and reported that the images of the scanned container were deleted which meant that staff members were involved… it is now up to the Guyana Revenue Authority to launch an internal probe to determine what went wrong,” Singh noted in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
After that process, he stated that persons who are found culpable should face the consequences. On this note, he stated that CANU will continue to work along with their counterparts in Belgium to bring closure to the case and hopefully the “big fishes” can be caught and prosecuted.
“The Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit will continue to put a dent in the drug trade but we cannot have agencies undermining our efforts… we are supposed to be working together and not against each other…when that happens, it becomes difficult for us,” Singh noted.
However, the hunt continues for wanted shipper, Marlon Primo of Lot 701 Cummings Lodge, East Coast Demerara (ECD), and of 69 Atlantic Village, ECD. He is also the proprietor of MA Trading, located at 35 Factory Road, Paradise, ECD.
On November 4, it was reported that Belgian authorities had intercepted a vessel that allegedly left Guyana with a whooping 11.5 tonnes of cocaine – the largest drug bust ever.
It was reported that counter-narcotics prosecutors tracked the transatlantic journey of 11.5 tonnes of cocaine from Guyana, on the northeastern coast of South America, and seized it upon its arrival at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium.
Federal prosecutors had reported that this was “the largest overseas drug bust ever, worldwide” with an estimated street value of €900 million or US$1.06 billion. The drugs were disguised as scrap metal and placed inside a steel container, which was, in turn, packed into a sea container and loaded into a transatlantic vessel.
According to the report, prosecutors were able to track the shipment following the dismantlement of a drug trafficking gang led by a former Belgian counter-narcotics chief, which revealed the existence of tight-knit links between criminal gangs and counter-narcotics and law enforcement officials.
The reports stated that three police officers, a port manager, and a lawyer were among some 20 other criminals arrested as part of an operation targeting the “well-structured” criminal organisation suspected of orchestrating large and “regular” drug shipments from South America to Belgium.
However, the record-breaking shipment was expected by law enforcement officials as it is suspected it left the port of Guyana after the drug gang’s arrest in Belgium, with drug gangs unable to intercept it once at sea.
The dismantlement of the drug gang late in September led to the arrest and indictment of 22 people, with three people still in the Netherlands awaiting extradition.
This major drug bust comes on the heels of one in August in Hamburg, Germany, where authorities discovered 1.5 tonnes of cocaine in a container of rice shipments.