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- US Embassy clears the air

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) met fugitive businessman, Roger Khan in March as part of a criminal investigation into his alleged involvement in drug trafficking, a statement from the US Embassy in George-town said yesterday.

The statement also made it clear that neither Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), Michael Thomas, nor Regional Security Officer (RSO), Brandon Lee was present at that meeting; nor did either of them ever meet Khan as he claimed in a statement issued through his lawyers on Saturday.

According to the statement from the embassy, the meeting between the US law enforcement officials and Khan was part of an investigation of the man who was recently indicted by a Grand Jury for conspiring to import cocaine into the US. Khan is also wanted by local police following a raidby the joint service on several properties belonging to him and the discovery of a number of illegal items.

The US Embassy statement comes one day after the Guyana Defence Force also confirmed that three of its senior officers were in contact with the fugitive in the initial stages of the probe into the missing AK-47s. The army, through its spokesperson, also said that it would be foolhardy for Khan to think that he had been exonerated from the investigation as a result.

Khan said he had daily meetings with three senior officers of the army with the knowledge of the Chief-of-Staff, Edward Collins. The army responded that because Collins is briefed on a daily basis on the investigation he would have been aware of all who his officers spoke to, including Khan.

Meanwhile, the embassy's comments on the two officials non-participation in the meeting confirms what an official had earlier told this newspaper that Khan did not even know whom he met with. Khan's lawyers had no immediate response to the US Embassy's statement yesterday.

Public Affairs Officer of the US Embassy, Christine Meyer had told Stabroek News on Sunday that it was outside the purview of the two officials to meet Khan and it was on that basis she denied that there was any such meeting with him.

According to the embassy statement, the mission does not normally comment on meetings it holds with individuals or the substances of those meetings.

However, the embassy said, because Khan was making a number of spurious claims it was forced to clear the air.

"US law enforcement officials from the DEA and FBI met with Khan in March," the statement said, adding that it was not abnormal for criminal investigators to meet suspects and or wanted persons in criminal investigations.

The statement noted also that because Khan is the subject of active law enforcement interests it would be inappropriate to discuss the substance of the meeting. An official at the mission also told Stabroek News that the US government had nothing to hide and would not allow Khan to peddle inaccuracies about it in the public.

Khan, in an earlier statement, had claimed that his indictment was motivated by political considerations and charged that the US government, the main opposition PNCR, the police and the army were trying to muzzle him before general elections. In his statement on Saturday the embattled businessman said he spoke personally with Lee at least five times before the meeting to work out the specifics such as place and time.

Glenn Hanoman, one of the fugitive's lawyers, told Stabroek News that two prominent businessmen set up the meeting with Khan and the US officials. One of the businessmen named, when contacted yesterday, said he was not commenting on the matter. The other businessman could not be reached for a response. Hanoman had told this newspaper that Khan approached the businessmen following certain developments and they assisted him in meeting the US officials.

Stabroek News was told that the developments were centred on the taped recording of a conversation purported to have taken place between Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix and PNCR, Vice Chairman, Basil Williams. Stabroek News also understands that Khan had the recording in his possession and felt he needed to expose it to the US government.

Once Khan agreed to the meeting the US government used the opportunity to further its investigation on his alleged drug trafficking. Khan had said too that telephone records would show a "flurry of calls" between the businessmen and the US embassy in addition to calls from the mission to the hotel.

He added that close friends, who accompanied him to the meeting, were willing to come forward to substantiate his claim about the meeting.

A staff member at the Ocean View International Hotel, Liliendaal where the meeting was held confirmed to this newspaper that such a meeting was indeed held in conference room number one. Stabroek News was told that several armed bodyguards of Khan staked out the hotel while the short meeting was taking place.

The fugitive businessman said it is important to note that the meeting took place days after the US State Department issued its International Narco-tics Control Strategy Report 2006, naming him as a known drug trafficker and more importantly, while a Grand Jury in New York was in the midst of deliberating on evidence alleging that he conspired to import cocaine into the US.

He said he went to the meeting in good faith and with a clear conscience and discussed the crime situation in Guyana in detail with the officials, including what he said were the political motives behind the failure of the police force to deal with the armed criminals in Buxton.

Stabroek News