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Indicted in the US on a drug charge, businessman Roger Khan says that he never conspired to import cocaine into the US and he is prepared to prove his innocence, two lawyers representing him said yesterday.

The attorneys: Vic Puran and Glenn Hanoman also said that should the US seek to extradite Khan, which is likely to happen, they would advise their client to demand that the US government make available for cross-examination in Guyana the persons who have made allegations against the businessman.

The United States 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. According to the US court documents, no arrest warrant had been issued there for Khan at the time the indictment was handed down. However, a wanted bulletin had been issued here for him several weeks ago in connection with the seizure of items following raids on places connected to him.

Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh had told this newspaper that government had not received any word from the US officials. However, he pointed out that the officials would first contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which would then make contact with him. And official at the US Embassy in Georgetown also confirmed to Stabroek News yesterday that no formal request for Khan's extradition had been made.

According to the indictment, the Grand Jury charged that between January 2001 and March 2006 within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, Shaheed Khan also called Roger Khan and 'Short Man' together with others, knowingly and intentionally conspired to import a controlled substance into the US. The offence involved five kilogrammes or more of a substance containing cocaine, the document said. According to the court documents Khan was charged in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 963 and 952(a). Section 952(a) makes it a crime to import a controlled substance into the US and Section 963 makes it a crime to conspire to do the same.

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. Khan was indicted on April 13 by a grand jury numbering 19 in a court in Brooklyn, New York.

Meanwhile, contacted yesterday Khan's lawyers said the question must be asked whether the timing of the unsealing of the indictment, which raises a 2001 allegation, is part of a larger attempt to remove Khan as a player on the local scene combating crime and the escalating violence.

Khan has acknowledged in the part that he has been involved in fighting criminals. The lawyers told Stabroek News that the fact that the time frame of the indictment is between January 2001 and March 2006 raises serious questions about the indictment and the informants. According to them, even though the grand jury began sitting on January 23, 2006, it indicted Khan for an offence with an outer time frame of March 2006. In other words, the attorneys said the offence was alleged to have been committed after the grand jury was established to determine whether an offence had already been committed.

Questioned about what would be their client's next move the attorneys said it is up to the US to decide to proceed with this indictment. Moreover, the lawyers said Khan is eager to test the authenticity of the evidential basis of the indictment.

On their demand that Khan's accusers be brought to Guyana to be cross-examined the lawyers are of the view that it would be unfair to have Khan tried for this matter in the US without testing the evidence in extradition proceedings.

"The allegations cannot withstand 15 minutes of cross-examination. It is unfair that an allegation as nebulous as this can cause a man to be extradited, disrupt his life and be put on trial on evidence which cannot hold," the lawyers argued.

They further stated that if the witnesses who are alleging that Khan conspired with them to import cocaine into the US are prepared to come to Guyana and testify in extradition proceedings they will advise Khan to come forward and meet his accusers. The lawyers said too that they have not made contact with the US government on the matter so far, but added that Khan is expected to make a full statement today. Asked how Khan reacted to the indictment, the attorneys said he was devastated when he learnt of what he termed the bogus indictment. Question-ed as to the reason why Khan has not yet turned himself in to local police despite a wanted bulletin being issued for him, the lawyers said, that the wanted bulletin is being challenged in court as unlawful. The lawyers have also said that if the police have anything to charge Khan with they would make their client available to answer the said charges.

Khan has been on the run since a wanted bulletin was published for him following several raids on places connected to him and the seizure of a number of items. More than a month ago local police had issued wanted bulletins for Khan, Gerald Pereira and former policemen, Paul Rodrigues and Ricardo Rodrigues. However, the four through their lawyers, Hanoman and Puran, reacted to the bulletins published in the newspapers by sending a letter to the Commissioner of Police stating that they had no confidence in the police force he heads and that the police have no authority to issue wanted bulletins for anyone for questioning.

The US State Department's annual drug report earlier this year named Khan as a drug trafficker.

Stabroek News