Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Drug mule or mole?

CGID blasts Steve Merai's appointment to Guyana Police top brass -
Cites connection to criminal enterprise

The New York based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) is blasting the Guyana Police Force for promoting embattled Senior Superintendent Steve Merai to the position of Assistant Commissioner of Police. "We are astonished at Merai's promotion in light of the torrent of allegations of criminal wrongdoings that have been made against him," the Institute said in a statement Monday.

"There are credible allegations that Merai has been involved in Guyana's underworld. He is currently entangled in a web of criminal allegations, including allegedly operating as an enforcer for drug barons; allegedly kidnapping for the purpose of extortion and of numerous extra-judicial killings," CGID said. The Institute said that "These are very serious allegations that are in the public domain, which the government can ill afford to ignore.

Merai was head of the notorious "Tactical Squad," known as the "Black-clothes Police." "Under Merai, the "Black-clothes Police" developed a bloody history. People's basic human rights were trampled upon. Lives were snuffed out via extra-judicial killings which became a norm. Drug dealers were protected, including Roger Khan, now in US custody. Eventually, the squad's corrupt and illegal practices led to its disbandment," asserted the New York think-tank.

The Black-clothe Police became notoriously know for the Mandela Avenue massacre, where three young men, including the son of former Guyanese diplomat, Lawrence Houston, were publicly executed when their car was pulled over.

"Merai was a material witness in the Coroner's Inquest into the three murder in 2005 by then Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder Allen, but otensibily defected to Canada for an extended period. He was however, allegedly forced to return one year later, amidst reports that he was deported by Canadian Immigration authorities. After he showed up in Guyana, he was readmitted into the Police Forces, where he maintained his rank – a testament to his political clout," CGID noted.

Last year a Georgetown businessman released a tape recording which captured Merai, then a Senior Superintendent of Police, shaking-down the said businessman, demanding that he paid money he had owed to an alleged West Demerara drug baron for a drug deal.

Guyana's independent daily Stabroek Newspapers reported that "Merai was heard on the tape demanding US$60,000 from the businessman to settle the case," on behalf of the drug dealer. When the tape became public, Merai admitted that it was his voice. He told Stabroek News that he heard about the drug deal and "approached the West Demerara man who admitted that the Georgetown businessman owed him US$710,000 for a shipment of cocaine and was hiding and not paying up."

The Stabroek Newspaper reported on November 10, 2007 that "According to the recordings, the businessman had collected a delivery of cocaine, which had been shipped by a Guyanese living in Venezuela from another man who resides on the West Demerara. After collecting the narcotics the businessman had allegedly refused to pay for it and the Venezuelan man and his West Demerara accomplice had reportedly contacted Merai asking him to ensure that the businessman paid up." Published reports indicate that the businessman, who recorded Merai's shakedown, was "deported from the US in 1999 after serving time for impersonation, possession of firearms and trafficking in cocaine."

CGID contended that "In June 2008, Merai, having admitted involvement in the aforementioned tape-recorded transaction, told the newspaper that he was "working undercover." However, the newspaper reported that none of his superior officers knew of or authorized Merai's activities. Merai also allegedly claimed that he was working for a foreign government."

But CGID dismissed Merai's explanation, saying that "Merai's claim that he was working "undercover" or under cover for a foreign government, is incredulous and stunningly superficial. At the time, he was not assigned to the narcotics squad. Further, his claim of working undercover as a foreign agent is not only "unlawful" but it is a "subterfuge," the Institute asserted. It questioned whether the government had investigated Merai's public confession of being a spy.

In November 2007, Guyana Police had acknowledged receiving a copy of the tape and a transcript. Police Commissioner Henry Greene also announced then that "an investigation by the force had been conducted and that the file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for advice." He also indicated that Merai had been relieved of duties as the coordinator of the Police Impact Patrol following the allegations, and was placed in charge of ministerial security. However, the organization said that Merai was never charged or disciplined.

The Institute said that the fact that President Bharrat Jagdeo, Minister of National Security Clement Rohee and Police Commissioner Henry Green, with full knowledge of the allegations against Merai, continue to sanction his tenure in the Police Force and command of the PPP's "ministerial security," is worrisome. "It is an indication that Merai's political loyalties to the PPP has paid a dividend."

The CGID added that "We strongly condemn Merai's readmission into the Guyana Police Force and his recent promotion to Assistant Commissioner. We believe that with this appointment, the criminal enterprise has solidified its foothold in the leadership of the Guyana Police."

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