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Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Headlines from Kaieteur News...

Sacred Heart Church $400M insurance fraud…

Guyflag official faces two charges

The man behind the attempted $400M fraud on behalf of Guyflag Insurance Company was yesterday slapped with two charges when he appeared before Magistrate Gordon Gilhuys at the Georgetown Magistrates' Court.

Dr. Frederick Sukhdeo, called Fred Sukhdeo, was charged following fifteen months of investigations. It is alleged that on December 29, 2004 the 69-year-old man forged a fire and perils claim form claiming US $2M as insurance for the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

He was also charged for endeavouring to obtain US $2M upon the virtue of a forged instrument.

The Oleander Gardens resident was not required to plead yesterday since both charges were indictable.

Dr. Sukhdeo is accused of presenting himself as the church's representative to a loss adjuster in Barbados for a bogus US$2M GuyFlag insurance claim over the Sacred Heart fire.

Attorneys-at-law Winston Murray and Vijay Datadin represented Sukhdeo yesterday.

During a bail application, Datadin said that his client has surrendered all of his travel documents to the police, and has been visiting the police whenever he was required.

Murray told Magistrate Gilhuys that Sukhdeo was placed on $50,000 station bail as the investigations were being conducted.

Magistrate Gilhuys placed the accused on $75,000 bail.

On November 15, 2005 police arrested and placed the key figure in the controversy over the Catholic Church fire insurance scam on bail.

The police were reportedly looking for Sukhdeo several months before his arrest in connection with the incident. Searches were allegedly made to locate him at his home and even at his mother's home in Canje, but they were all futile.

Gregory Yeadon, the insurance loss adjuster in Barbados , has reportedly submitted his report on the matter to all the relevant authorities in Guyana .

Sukhdeo allegedly presented himself to Yeadon as a representative of the Catholic Church.

GuyFlag reportedly submitted a bogus claim for payment to its reinsurance agent AON Re, and Sukhdeo, who was head of the sister operation, the National Cooperative Credit Union Limited (NCCUL), had been allegedly presented as a representative of the Catholic Church dealing with the Sacred Heart fire.

Yeadon of Barbados had allegedly brought the scam to light after his suspicions led him to the Roman Catholic Bishop who said there was no policy. As such the Commissioner of Insurance was called in and the matter was reported to the police.

The case will continue before Acting Chief Magistrate Cecil Sullivan on March 25.

Search for missing army weapons

19 detained, firearms, cocaine, bullet-proof vehicle seized

At least 12 illegal firearms, quantities of cocaine, military clothing and several vehicles, including a bullet-proof pick-up, have been seized so far by the Joint Services team conducting the massive, country-wide search for the cache of weapons stolen from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). Nineteen people have also been detained.

A statement by the Joint Services said that the operation began on Friday, with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) establishing a number of check-points and cordon-and-search operations along the lower East Coast Demerara and in Georgetown .

“Over 175 motor vehicles have been detained, many of them heavily tinted and some with questionable documents,” the statement said.

“A number of persons were questioned and based on the credible information received, a joint GPF and GDF Task Force executed roadblocks and cordon and searches early Sunday morning through to Monday 20.”

During the joint operation early Sunday morning, roadblocks were conducted on East Coast and East Bank Demerara and these subsequently led to the execution of cordon and search operations at the Blue Iguana nightclub in Fifth and Light Streets, Alberttown; the Reef Club at 60 Station Street, Kitty; a five-storey building in Station Street, Kitty; the Dream Works office in Garnett Street; the Master's Touch carpeting business at Second Street, Bel Air Village; and a house at 133 Rotunda Place, D'Aguiar's Park, Houston.

Additionally, a search team was deployed to Kaow Island in the Essequibo River .

As a result of the operation, nine men and two women were arrested and a number of items seized. These included seven handguns, two pellet guns, two pistol magazines with three live 9mm rounds, four heavily tinted vehicles, including an F 150 bullet proof pick-up truck, seven hand held radios, three mobile telephones, 41 small containers with cocaine and a Guyana passport.

The statement said that searches were also conducted at three houses in the city at North East La Penitence, 239 Pike Street Kitty, and 19 Bel Air Promenade, Prashad Nagar. In North East La Penitence four persons were arrested and a quantity of live and blank ammunition, four AK- 47 magazines and two cleaning kits were seized.

During the search at Pike Street two persons were arrested and two revolvers, a pistol and a quantity of ammunition seized.

According to the statement, a quantity of police uniforms was found at the Prashad Nagar residence.

Yesterday, roadblocks were set up at Beterverwagting and Sparendaam. The citywide cordon and search operations were conducted at: Buddy's Night Club in Sheriff Street, where a motor vehicle “of interest to the security forces” was seized; at Avalanche Night Club in Sheriff Street; a house at U Grove Housing Scheme, East Bank Demerara, where one man was arrested and a quantity of military uniforms was seized; at Lot 106 Ixora Avenue Eccles, East Bank Demerara, where two men and two women were arrested and a quantity of ammunition was discovered; and the La Chalet Country Club in Soesdyke, where one man was arrested.

In the wake of the cordon and search operation that began in the city on Sunday the proprietors of the various entities reported damage to their property. At Dream Works, the company secretary was forced to order repairs to five doors, three of which led to the upper portion of the building.

The ranks that invaded the property had kicked them down, splintering large sections in the process.

At Blue Iguana where the search teams remained until 15:30hrs yesterday, the destruction was widespread. Floors were ripped up and every pool table on the premises was damaged, their slots and pool receptacles ripped apart.

A statement by the management noted that the managers were never allowed to access their property.

“The massive unnecessary destruction of property and its fixtures in the wake of the search was truly mind-boggling. Chairs, the floor of the premises and pool tables were broken. Lighting fixtures were damaged, licensed metal detectors were taken and incredulously, liquour stock, including some very expensive imported liquour, is missing.”

The statement added that the management is taking stock of the damage with a view to pursuing legal action. It continued that “an early estimate puts the damage and losses at millions of dollars”.

The management of the Master's Touch Carpet Company said that the building was still under the control of the police and the army.

Media houses breaching code

Monitoring Unit

- Refereeing Panel due April 3

Members of the International Media Refereeing Panel are due in Guyana on April 3 and will be engaging media houses, political parties and the Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) on issues as work begins on monitoring the media during the run-up to the 2006 General Elections.

Commonwealth Media Advisor to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Tim Neale, told Kaieteur News yesterday that the members, Lennox Grant and Wyvolyn Gager, will spend three days in Guyana updating themselves on the local media and the political scene.

Grant is from Trinidad and Tobago where he was formerly the Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian. He is currently a media consultant and a talk show host and producer.

Gager is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Jamaica Gleaner. Neale stated that the panel will view material collected by the MMU and conduct its own monitoring of the media, following which public pronouncements will be made.

The members of the panel will return to Guyana in May for a short period then again in June when they will remain until after the elections.

Neale informed that training of personnel to operate the MMU has been completed. The MMU has now moved to the point where monitoring and analysing the media are ongoing.

He stated that the MMU will begin visiting media houses from next Monday to point out to their management shortcomings identified in their coverage during the elections season.

Neale made it known that the MMU has already noticed that some media houses were not abiding by the Code of Conduct governing coverage of the 2006 elections.

“There has not been any gross infringement apart for one common to many media houses where there is a tendency to be unbalanced in terms of time and space given to political parties,” he said.

He pointed out that this aspect will be crucial after Nomination Day when the elections campaign officially begins. “There is an ongoing, permanent tendency for some television stations and newspapers in clearly supporting or opposing one or more party. This is not a matter of opinion but a matter of fact.”

He stated that there are also some television programmes where there is the prevalence by talk show hosts to be more supportive of one political view while cutting short callers who are against that view.

“We need to talk to editors about the people they contract for shows, for them to follow the Code,” he said.

The MMU is analysing the content of local media programming and reports with a view to determine whether media houses are abiding by the Code. The MMU, which is located at Lot 110, Duke Street and Barrack Street , Kingston , comprises a team of 15 monitors.

The MMU was established by GECOM following the establishment and signing of the self-regulatory Code by all the country's main newspapers, radio and television stations, with the purpose of encouraging the media to make a full democratic contribution to the upcoming elections. This initiative by GECOM is being supported, particularly by the European Union, under the Memorandum of Understanding between the donor community and GECOM.

The Code will form a benchmark against which the monitoring team will assess the performance of the media.

The monitoring will be both quantitative and qualitative, in the first case actually counting and recording the share of time or space given by each media house to each political party and, in the second, making a qualitative assessment of the balance, accuracy and fairness of all news and political programmes.

Close attention will be paid to the often unavoidable coverage of sensitive issues.

Any examples that seem likely to incite racial hatred or be the cause of inter-community violence will be noted for urgent discussion with the media house involved.

Analysis of media coverage, summarised in weekly reports, will be made public.

Top cop's telephone bugged

- recording purportedly between Felix and prominent attorney

Persons unknown have apparently bugged a telephone in the office of Police Commissioner Winston Felix.

The security breach became known after a tape recording surfaced of a 17-minute conversation, which appeared to be between Felix and a prominent attorney with ties to the main opposition party.

Tapes of the conversation have been distributed to several media houses.

One television station has aired the entire conversation.

During the conversation, Felix and the attorney discuss political issues, the unrest in Buxton, the execution of talk show host Ronald Waddell, and the recent massacre in Eccles and Agricola.

Throughout the conversation, Felix's voice is distinctively clearer, suggesting that the listening device has been planted in his telephone.

Contacted yesterday, Minister of Home Affairs Gail Teixeira told Kaieteur News that she had not heard the tape and therefore could not comment on the matter.

Gun, ammo disappear from
Target Base barrack room

Police have placed one of its ranks under close arrest following the mysterious disappearance of a 9mm pistol from the old Target Base barrack room.

The weapon, which belongs to an ex-member of the now infamous police squad, was discovered missing at around midday on Thursday last.

According to reports, the Ex-Target Squad member, who is now stationed at Lethem, was attending a traffic course at the Felix Austin Police College and went into his old barrack room at around 12:35 hours on Thursday. There he met two constables playing cards on a table.

He reportedly placed the weapon with 16 live rounds under a mattress and proceeded to the bathroom in the said building.

When the rank returned to the room he found that the two constables had disappeared.

A check under the mattress revealed that the weapon with ammunition was also missing.

A report was made and one of the constables was detained, but he denied knowledge of the missing gun and ammunition.

Police are still trying to locate the other constable.