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A SURINAME government minister yesterday linked fugitive Guyanese businessman Shaheed `Roger’ Khan to plots to assassinate key government and judicial officials in the neighbouring country.

Suriname Minister of Justice, Mr. Chandrikapersad Santokhi, told ‘de Ware Tijd’ newspaper the plots were uncovered in the probe by Suriname police into Khan’s prior activities.

He said the planned executions were part of Khan’s business in that country.

The dramatic arrest of Khan, 35, in a sting operation in Suriname Thursday, ended a two-year close watch on a man deemed a threat to the national security of the neighbouring countries, Santokhi said Saturday.

Sources also told `de Ware Tijd’ that among the names on the uncovered `hit list’ was that of Santokhi.

The newspaper said it has also learnt that another of the plots was against a police unit that was involved in the search for ammunition and grenades stolen from a Suriname army base.

The unit had been conducting searches for the missing ammunition and grenades in the Nickerie area, in the border region with Guyana.

According to the newspaper, Suriname Prosecutor-General Subhas Punwasi had informed a news conference after it was discovered that the ammo and grenades had disappeared, that Police teams were assisting in the search to recover them.

Santokhi also said that the United States, which has named him as a drug lord they want, is seeking his extradition to the U.S. and a formal request is to be put to the Suriname authorities this week.

He said the U.S. Embassy in Suriname has been in touch with the authorities in that country on flying Khan to the U.S. which claims he conspired to import drugs there between January 2001 and March 2006.

Santokhi told the newspaper Saturday that Khan has been placed under “maximum security” because officials there fear his network may try to break him out of custody.

According to the minister, Khan had wide criminal influence from his drug operations and was posing a national security threat not only to Guyana but to Suriname.

He said the “criminal activities” of the detained man extended beyond the two neighbouring countries and the Caribbean and international agencies, including those in the U.S., had been looking for him.

Suriname authorities, the minister said, had been following Khan’s moves for two years after they received information about his operations here and in the former Dutch colony.

Santokhi told ‘de Ware Tijd’, anti-drugs and other agencies in Suriname did not have enough to move against Khan until Thursday when they swooped and netted him in the biggest cocaine bust this year in that country.

Khan and three other Guyanese were among 12 people arrested in the operation which netted 213 kilos of cocaine.

The arrests by a joint Police SWAT-team and units of the Narcotics Brigade took place at two locations just outside downtown Paramaribo.

Suriname Prosecutor-General Subhas Punwasi confirmed Friday that Khan was among those arrested.

“From at least one of the other three Guyanese suspects I can confirm that he is an ex-policeman. The two others we believe are either in active police service or in the Guyanese intelligence agencies”, Punwasi told ‘de Ware Tijd’.

According to sources, Paul Rodrigues and Sean Belfield, two ex-Guyanese cops, are among the detainees. The identity of the fourth Guyanese detained is still under investigation since he didn’t have identification papers and allegedly entered Suriname illegally.

Punwasi also confirmed that the swoop Thursday was against a Guyana-Suriname gang which was trafficking cocaine from Guyana to Suriname.

“This is a big case and we are still following some leads. We want to catch all the persons who are involved in this gang”, said Commissioner Mathoera-Hussainali, Head of the Judicial Department of the Suriname Police Force.

The suspects did not resist arrest and more arrests were not ruled out, she said.

Khan was not in hiding in Suriname nor was he there on business, legal or illegal, his attorney, Mr. Vic Puran said Saturday night.

Puran told the Guyana Chronicle the purpose of Khan’s visit to the neighbouring country would be disclosed at a later time, because “if it is now stated it could be misconstrued in view of his current difficulties in Suriname.”

He said Khan’s other attorney, Mr. Glen Hanoman, who travelled to Suriname after his client was arrested Thursday, in the biggest cocaine bust in that country, retained a Surinamese lawyer who had a “supervised conversation” with Khan yesterday.

According to Puran, Khan said he has severely beaten by a dumb bell bar wrapped in wadding and has serious bruises on his ribs and other parts of his body.

Hanoman was denied access to Khan who has not seen a doctor, Puran said.

He added that the other three Guyanese held in the cocaine bust have also been beaten by Surinamese authorities and the four are being kept in separate places.

Puran said Khan told the Surinamese lawyer that he was being beaten in custody because the authorities want to extract a confession to link him to the 213 kilos of cocaine found in the operation.

The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, unsealed an indictment on May 3 last, which charges that Khan conspired to import cocaine into the U.S. between January 2001 and March 2006.

Police made the arrests and the drug find Thursday at two different locations in the capital Paramaribo.

At the first house in a residential area a few minutes drive from downtown Paramaribo, 109 kilos of cocaine were seized by the police squads. Another 104 kilos of cocaine and an automatic gun were found when the police raided a house in Franchepane Straat, Zorg-en-Hoop, also in Paramaribo.

Initially, six Surinamese nationals and one Guyanese were arrested and the other five were held as the investigation progressed.

Police in Guyana issued wanted bulletins for Khan and Rodrigues and were looking for Khan in connection with the theft of 30 AK-47 rifles from the Guyana Defence Force Camp Ayanganna headquarters in Georgetown earlier this year.

Since then Khan and several other persons connected to him were on the run and rumours were that they went into hiding in Suriname.

The U.S. Government earlier this year named Khan among drug traffickers it claimed were gaining a significant foothold in Guyana’s timber industry.

“In 2005, the Guyana Forestry Commission granted a State Forest Exploratory Permit for a large tract of land in Guyana’s interior to Aurelius Inc., a company controlled by known drug trafficker Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan,” the U.S. 2006 International Narcotics Control Strategy report stated.

“Such concessions in the remote interior may allow drug traffickers to establish autonomous outposts beyond the reach of Guyanese law enforcement,” the report added.

The U.S. had indicated it was moving to request the extradition of Khan to face charges that he conspired to ship cocaine into the U.S. this year.

“We expect that that will be submitted in due course,” U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Roland Bullen said on May 25.

Attorney for Khan, Mr. Vic Puran had said his client was prepared to face the local courts and to “deal” with an extradition request from the U.S.

Revelations by Khan caused the U.S. to move away from protocol and to divulge interactions its agents had with the businessman.

An official at the U.S. embassy here said the embassy chose to speak of meetings Khan held with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) only “because Khan is of active law enforcement interest.”

Local Police on March 29 put out a wanted bulletin for Khan, shortly after his business places, in and around Georgetown, were raided in joint operations by the Police Force and the GDF.

Police in a press release said Khan, of 133 Rotunda Place, D’Aguiar’s Park, Houston, is wanted in connection with investigations into the discovery of firearms, ammunition, drugs and other illegal items found during the Joint Services operation.

During their operations, GDF troops and police ranks targeted all of Khan’s known businesses in Georgetown – Dreamworks Housing Development in Garnette Street; the Reef Club at 60, Station Street, Kitty, and the Master’s Touch Carpet Cleaners at 2nd Street, Bel Air Village.

They also searched his D’Aguiar’s Park home and deployed a team to Kaow Island in the Essequibo River, where he also owns a sawmilling operation.

Khan in statements issued in the press claimed that the grand jury indictment and anything flowing from it had been motivated by political considerations.

He said he is perceived by persons in the U.S., the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force and the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform as someone “who has the will and a capacity to fight crime and to protect the people of Guyana.”

At the Guyana 40th Independence anniversary event in Toronto last month, Home Affairs Minister Gail Teixiera told a gathering, “The Americans have called for the extradition of one of the biggest drug lords in our country and as a government we will do everything possible to make sure that narcotics and weapons are removed from infiltrating our society, our communities, our young people.”

She added that the country is also faced by local crime and security problems and they are being tackled by a number of initiatives taken by the government.

Guyana Chronicle
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