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Roger Khan

A network of ex-convicts and members of the then police Target Special Squad (TSS) was what businessman Shaheed 'Roger' Khan used to combat crime and assist the police force during the escapee-led violence in 2002-3, a source close to him told Stabroek News.

The source who asked not to be named said that Khan never got involved in actual operations and does not have a private `army' as some may think. Rather, the source said, he has his own bodyguards and a network of armed informants (phantom squad) made up of mainly ex-convicts and ex-policemen. The source made these disclosures on Thursday when asked by this newspaper to clarify Khan's claim that he had worked closely with the crime-fighting section of the Guyana Police Force during the crime spree in 2002 and provided them with assistance and information at his own expense.

Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon has denied that the security services ever engaged Khan to help it fight crime, although the embattled businessman has 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.

Khan has been indicted by a US Grand Jury for conspiring to import cocaine into that country between January 2001 and March 2006. Since the indictment was unsealed he has been very vocal, making statements about meetings he said he had with US officials and other law enforcement officers locally.

His statements seem to be aimed at mobilising public support and avoiding being handed over to the US authorities.

Khan has also said that when American diplomat, Steve Lesniak was kidnapped and taken to the village of Buxton he 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, who was thought to have masterminded the abduction. Browne was later cornered in a house a few days after and shot dead by the police. According to the source, Khan employed ex-convicts and policemen, paid them and had them gather intelligence on the whereabouts of the five escapees: Browne, Troy Dick, Andrew Douglas, Dale Moore and Mark Fraser. The quintet had made a bloody escape from the Camp Street Prison on February 23, 2002. Their escape was the catalyst for a wave of crime that the country had never experienced. During the period some 21 policemen were shot dead and countless civilians murdered on a daily basis. This period also saw scores of policemen leaving the job and confidence in the force was at an all-time low.

According to the source close to Khan, it was during this period Khan got together with some other businessmen and organised a strategy to help fight the criminals who were running amok. The source said Khan used his own intelligence and resources. "He worked directly with the Target Squad and provided its members with information on criminals and leads and they used that information and got to some of the criminals," the source said. "Khan never picked up a gun as far as I know and hunted down any criminal, his role was basically to show the way," the source said.

The source could not say how Khan acquired his resources. Khan, Sean Belfield, who was then a serving member of the TSS and Haroon Yahya were intercepted at Good Hope by an army patrol in December 2002. The vehicle they were travelling in had a cache of high-powered weapons and electronic equipment capable of intercepting telephone calls. The trio was charged and went before the courts, but the case was later dismissed. The source added that following the appointment of Commis-sioner of Police, Winston Felix, the relationship between Khan and the TSS broke off as Felix sought to dismantle the squad and later dismissed many of the operatives of the group. However, the source said Khan still maintained relations with most of the members of the disbanded TSS and today a number of them are working for him, either as bodyguards or informants.

Earlier this year the Police Force was compelled to issue newspaper notices with the faces and names of almost all of the former TSS members. It was alleged that the ex-policemen were going around claiming still to be members of the force and some were actually involved in criminal activities.

Asked about the so-called "Phantom Squad", the source said, the ex-convict network, which Khan employed as his informants, could be viewed as that but most of the killings were being carried out by other persons.

"So when we were hearing and seeing bodies being picked up around the country on a daily basis, some of those killings were actually done" by other persons.

A number of young men, some with shady backgrounds were executed by a killing group during 2003-2004. Self-confessed death squad informant George Bacchus had made a number of allegations against then Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj in relation to the operations of the squad. A Presidential Commission of Inquiry was subsequently held into the allegation that the minister was involved in the setting up of the squad and it cleared him.

Asked how Khan got his intelligence on criminal activities, the source said that he used his informants well. Stabroek News was told that Khan had even employed a few men in the village of Buxton where the escapees had camped out. Some of those men after it was discovered that they were informants were either shot and killed by Buxton gunmen or chased out of the village. "Today Khan still believes that he did a whole lot to help the police in fighting crime and he will continue to say this," the source told Stabroek News.

Stabroek News