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Army confirms officers met Roger Khan -but says this was part of wide-ranging probe of missing weapons and did not mean he would not be investigated

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has acknowledged that some of its investigators held meetings with fugitive businessman Shaheed 'Roger' Khan in the initial stages of the probe into the missing AK-47s but said it would have been "foolhardy" for him to assume he was absolved in the matter.

"In the very early stages of our investigations into the disappearance of the missing weapons, members of the investigative team had conversations with Mr Roger Khan," the GDF spokesperson told Stabroek News yesterday in response to Khan's latest statement on Saturday which said he had had regular meetings with the army on the missing weapons.

The army spokesman added that it did not mean that Khan would not be investigated. The spokesperson said that the investigating ranks are trained in intelligence and information gathering and utilise a wide variety of sources across many sectors.

Khan said in the Saturday statement that he had daily meetings with three senior officers of the army with the knowledge of Chief of Staff, Edward Collins.

The spokesperson told Stabroek News that because Collins is briefed on a daily basis on the investigation he would have been aware of all the persons that his officers spoke to including Khan.

Khan, who has been issuing controversy-filled statements since the United States indicted him on a drug charge, contended that he supplied the GDF with information about who was responsible for the larceny of the weapons. He said there was a deliberate attempt by the army to divert the investigation.

In February, the army revealed that 30 AK-47 assault rifles and five pistols were missing from the Camp Ayanganna storage bond.

According to the army spokesperson the three senior officers named in Khan's statement are all members of the army's investigative team pursuing the disappearance of the missing weapons. The spokesperson said that the ranks were given "scope" to speak to everyone and anyone wherever intelligence might have led them and they would have had to brief Collins.

"So it was very likely that he (Collins) would be aware of all the persons interviewed by the investigative ranks," the spokesperson said. When pressed as to whether Collins knew of the "conversations" the ranks had with Khan, the spokesperson admitted that he knew.

Khan said it was no coincidence that the ongoing joint services campaign has so far failed to recover any of the stolen weapons and he felt it was due to the "unwillingness or disinclination on the part of the security forces."

"It would have been naive and foolhardy of anyone who may have been interviewed to assume that because they were spoken to or may have given information to the investigators that they would not be investigated. Wherever our intelligence led, that is the direction in which we would go," the GDF spokesperson said last evening.

Stabroek News spoke to other persons in the army who confirmed that there were meetings with Khan and at least two of the persons named by Khan. This newspaper understands that the most senior of the three had no direct contact with Khan.

One source noted that initially the army had absolutely no clue as to who took the weapons or where they were taken.

"So we spoke to everyone, the good, the bad and the evil. We spoke to the clean and the unclean but it would have been foolish for Khan to feel because he was spoken to that he was exonerated from the investigation," the source said.

The source continued that the army also spoke to businessmen, politicians and everyone in the initial stages as they were in the information-gathering stages.

"When the crime was committed we had no clue so we had to gather information," the source said while admitting that initially the army was stumped following the discovery of the disappearance.

"We didn't know, so we had to move from a position of zero and in order to go further we had to go from the bottom of the valley to the top."

It was pointed out that that was the way intelligence is gathered throughout the world. It was stated that the army later got information which led to them raiding some of Khan's premises and those of his associates in conjunction with the police and they would continue to follow their leads.

Khan in his statement said that the security forces have focused their operations on persons allegedly involved in drug trafficking and that "The purpose of that focus is to drive underground, the only persons who have the will and the capability to stand up to the group of armed bandits and have demonstrated the inclination to do so - thereby removing the only impediment to the criminal and political operations of the so-called armed African resistance fighters".

In this context, he was of the view that it was clear that even if the governing PPP/C won the next election it would be vulnerable to instability through politically directed terrorist and savage conduct by an armed criminal group operating unopposed.

"I wish to make it abundantly clear that my past, present and future energies to combat crime in Guyana has as its motive the prevention of the loss of innocent lives and the arrest and capture of factions and groups [like] the armed resistance," he said, while denying affiliation to either of the main political parties, and blaming both for the current state of affairs in the country.

Stabroek News