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Friday, May 12, 2006

Shaheed 'Roger' Khan

A US court in New York has issued a warrant for the arrest of Shaheed 'Roger' Khan, stepping up the pressure on the local businessman who was recently indicted by a Grand Jury for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

The arrest warrant came days after a grand jury indictment was unsealed for Khan, who is also called 'Short man'. Contacted yesterday, one of Khan's attorneys, Glenn Hanoman confirmed that the warrant was issued. He said it was left up to the US to make their next move which is to request the extradition of the embattled businessman. Khan has denied conspiring to send cocaine to the US.

He has been in hiding since March 18 after the joint services raided several of his properties and found items therein that they wanted to question him about. An arrest warrant was subsequently issued for him and three others, but they have challenged the legality of the warrant. The matter is currently before the court.

According to a copy of the warrant seen by Stabroek News, a United States Marshal and/or any authorized US officer is commanded to arrest Khan and take him forthwith to the nearest magistrate to answer the indictment charging him with conspiring to import cocaine into the USA.

The next step would be an extradition request or the issuance of a warrant for his arrest by Interpol which the local police force would then have to act on. This would then focus the spotlight on the local police who have thus far been unable to locate Khan.

Meanwhile, Vice-Chairman of the PNCR, Debra Backer reiterated yesterday that her party has given little credence to a statement issued by the wanted man who claimed among other things that the US Grand Jury indictment was motivated by political considerations and was aimed at paving the way for the PNCR to fulfil its ambitions.

He also charged that the United States, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) are complicit in this.

Asked to comment on the embattled businessman's statement, Backer told a media conference at her party's headquarters that the PNCR does not intend to take control of the country through any other means but by the ballot box. She said the PNCR has no need to muzzle Khan who she says has no political ambitions as far as she knew and is not a leader of any party. "He is insignificant to say the least," Backer commented, adding that her party does not wish to give any credence to his statements nor does it intend to waste time analyzing it.

The government was equally dismissive of Khan's statement. Government spokesman, Robert Persaud when contacted on Wednesday said that he had not seen the statement and even if he had seen it the administration would not respond to something from such an individual.

The US Embassy for its part extended an invitation to Khan to apply for a US visa through normal procedures in order to travel to the US so that he can be "processed" through the US judicial system. Khan's lawyers had demanded that the US present its witnesses to be cross-examined in Guyana at any extradition proceedings.

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 up to yesterday had not received a formal request from the US for Khan's extradition.

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.

Khan in his two-page statement issued on Wednesday said that persons in the USA, the GPF, GDF and PNCR saw him as someone who has the capacity to fight crime and to protect the people of Guyana against a coup d'etat.

He mentioned that during the crime spree in 2003 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 he also assisted with intelligence after US diplomat Steve Lesniak was kidnapped.

In its annual report on the drug trade, the US State Department described Khan as a drug trafficker in its section on Guyana.

The raids on Khan's properties and businesses by local police came in the wake of the disappearance of 30 AK-47s from the army's headquarters at Camp Ayanganna.

Stabroek News