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Thursday, May 11, 2006
Drug charge motivated by politics -Roger Khan

Roger Khan

Embattled businessman Roger Khan yesterday said that a US Grand Jury indictment of him on a drug charge was motivated by political considerations and he again said he worked closely with the police force in combating the 2002 crime spree, helping in the bid to free a kidnapped American diplomat.

Khan, who has been in hiding here since local police issued a warrant for his arrest after several of his businesses were searched, said the indictment against him is intended to pave the way for the opposition PNCR to fulfil its political ambitions by any means necessary and that the United States, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) are complicit in this.

PNCR spokesperson on crime, Debra Backer last evening told Stabroek News that she had not seen the statement but she presumed that it would be dealt with at the party's press conference today. She, however, said that the party had no intention of allowing Khan to distract it from its programme of work.

In response, the US embassy in Georgetown said it is inviting Khan to apply for a US visa through the normal procedures in order for him to travel to the United States to be processed through the country's judicial system. The GPF and the GDF had no comment. The US statement was issued in reaction to one made by Khan, which was issued through his lawyers yesterday. Khan's statement among other things charged that he had a meeting with the Deputy US Ambassador to Guy-ana and the US Regional Security Officer of the Caribbean as recently as March this year. However, Public Affairs Officer of the embassy Christine Meyer told Stabroek News yesterday that as far as she was aware no such meeting was ever held between the fugitive and the US officials.

The US District Court Eastern District of New York unsealed a grand jury indictment on May 3 which charges that Khan conspired to import drugs into the US between January 2001 and March 2006. The indictment was issued on April 13 by a grand jury numbering 19 in a court in Brooklyn, New York. Local authorities are still awaiting a formal request from the US for Khan's extradition which is likely to happen shortly. According to the brief statement by the US, "Mr. Khan is welcome to apply for a U.S. visa through our normal procedures in order to travel to the U.S. so that he can be processed through the U.S. judicial system."

Among other things, Khan through his lawyers: Vic Puran and Glenn Hanoman denied that he conspired to import cocaine into the US. His lawyers are also calling on the US to present its witnesses to be cross-examined at any local extradition proceedings so as to test the basis of the evidence brought against Khan.

Meanwhile, in a two-page statement released by one of Khan's lawyers yesterday, the fugitive said that the grand jury indictment and anything flowing from it, including a request for his extradition have been motivated by political considerations.

He said that he is perceived by persons in the USA, the Police Force, the Army and the PNCR as someone who has the will and capacity to fight crime and to protect the people of Guyana against a coup d'etat. According to Khan, during the crime spree in 2002, he worked closely with the crime-fighting section of the police force and provided them with assistance and information at his own expense. He said his participation was instrumental in curbing crime during that period. Khan has made this assertion before and questions have been raised about what role he played exactly. During this period, several death squads emerged and a number of the escapees from the Camp Street prison, who sparked the orgy of crime, and dozens of suspects and other persons, were gunned down in murky circumstances.

Contacted for a comment on the Khan statement both the police and army declined. Government spokesman, Robert Persaud said that he had not seen the statement, but even if he had seen it, there would be no response to a statement by such an individual.

Khan charged in his statement that, when American diplomat, Steve Lesniak was kidnapped from the Lusignan golf course and taken to the village of Buxton during the height of the crime wave in 2003, he (Khan) met with operatives from the American Embassy on a daily basis and provided them with information and hard evidence that led to the issuance of an arrest warrant for escapee Shawn Browne. Browne was accused of masterminding the kidnapping. Lesniak was subsequently freed after a ransom was paid but this was said to be a turning point in the crime fight as several of the escapees and other known bandits were mysteriously killed after this.

Khan said that he met with American operatives including the Deputy US Ambassador and the US regional security officer of the Caribbean in March this year at the Ocean View Interna-tional Hotel, Liliendaal. At that meeting which lasted for over three hours, Khan said he provided the US officials with evidence that sections of the security forces in Guyana had strong political motives for encouraging and protecting the so-called armed resistance of Buxton. Meyer denied that there was ever such meeting with Khan and the officials. She said as far as she knew it was a fabrication on Khan's part.

Khan's statement said that from the time the GDF started to play a role in the country's crime problem in 2002 and now again in 2006, their real target has been him, leading to his arrest in 2002 and the targeting of his business premises and persons connected to him this year. Khan, Haroon Yahya and Sean Belfield were nabbed at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara near to an assortment of high-powered weapons and sophisticated electronic equipment by a GDF patrol. The trio was charged and taken to court but the matter was subsequently dismissed. Recently the US named Khan in a drug report as a drug trafficker.

According to Khan's statement, the timing of the requests by the Americans for his extradition is no coincidence. The US has not made any formal requests for Khan to be extradited as yet, although a senior official at the embassy in Georgetown said that this would be done shortly. "It has coincided with a period of Guyana's history when the country's security is most at risk and most vulnerable to a coup d'etat," the accused drug trafficker said. Khan said his indictment is actuated by bad faith so that he might be punished, detained and restricted in his movements. He charged that the plan is to set the scene for the PNCR to thwart the democratic process and to fulfil its political ambitions by any means necessary. He contended that the silence of the American Embassy concerning matters of national security is tacit approval of the violent depths to "which we have recently plunged". He said that it took a grand jury less time to indict him than it is taking the American government to authenticate the voices on the taped recording allegedly between Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix and PNCR Vice Chairman, Basil Williams. "The disinclination of the Americans to do the authentication and their unwillingness to even comment on my stated close relationship with Felix should be compared with their previous eagerness to listen to the likes of (self-professed death squad informant George) Bacchus, when the professionalism of a PPP/C government minister (Ronald Gajraj) was in question. Khan alleged that the US has been acting in collusion with leaders of the police, army and the PNCR. The businessman also attacked US policies, saying that one of the world's richest nations aided and abetted a criminal rebellion in Haiti to remove a democratically elected government. Khan said that Latin America is moving away from US hegemony and now socialist governments are in place in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba and Guyana. He said that Guyana has once again assumed geopolitical importance and as such it is crucial for American interests to install a puppet regime here. According to the indictment, the Grand Jury charged that between January 2001 and March 2006 within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, Khan together with others, knowingly and intentionally conspired to import a controlled substance containing cocaine.

He was charged in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 963 and 952 (a). Under US law, Khan faces a minimum of ten years to a maximum of life in prison for the offence based on the amount of cocaine imported.

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