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Saturday, June 17, 2006
Suriname to try Khan & Co. if offences committed -Prosecutor General

In the wake of the largest drug bust there this year, Suriname yesterday declared it would try fugitive businessman Roger Khan and others if it was found that they had broken laws.

Sources in Georgetown yesterday said that the United States is also keen to prosecute Khan following his indictment in New York this year on a charge of conspiring to import drugs.

In Thursday's operation in Paramaribo, Khan and three other Guyanese: Paul Rodrigues, Sean Belfield and Lloyd Roberts, and eight Surinamese were held. The police also confiscated 213 kilos of cocaine.

In an interview with the Surinamese newspaper de Ware Tijd (DWT) yesterday, Suriname's Prosecutor-General Subhas Punwasi said "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". Sources in Georgetown said this is because when the Guyanese men were arrested in Paramaribo, two of them were passed off as if they were still active in Guyana's security and intelligence services.

According to DWT, the Prosecutor-General categorically ruled out an extradition of the Guyanese suspects to either Guyana or the United States if the men had committed offences on Surinamese soil. Wanted bulletins had been issued by the Guyanese police for Khan and Rodrigues.

"If Mr Khan and the other Guyanese detainees have violated Surinamese laws they will be prosecuted by a Surinamese court", said the prosecutor.

DWT said that at this stage it is also unclear if the US will seek extradition from Suriname. Tom Walsh, Charge d'Affaires at the US embassy speaking through Public Relations officer Cliff Djamin said, that formally the embassy wasn't notified yet of Khan's arrest. "So we can't comment whether the United States will seek an extradition or not", said Djamin.

DWT, as reported in yesterday's Stabroek News said the police made the arrest and the drug find at two different locations in the capital Paramaribo. At the first house in a residential area a few minutes drive from downtown, 109 kilos of cocaine were seized by the police. At the second spot that was raided police confiscated 104 kilos cocaine and an automatic weapon. Initially six Surinamese and one Guyanese were apprehended. As the investigation progressed the other five suspects were apprehended. If found guilty the suspects face a jail term of up to 18 years. "This is a major case and we will go for the highest sentence", Punwasi told DWT.

Commissioner Mathoera-Hussainali, Head of the Judicial Department of the Suriname Police Force told DWT that the suspects didn't resist arrest. More arrests were not ruled out, she said. "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", she told DWT. Prosecutor-General Punwasi said a Guyana-Suriname gang was suspected of trafficking cocaine from Guyana to Suriname and those apprehended were believed to be a part of this. He further told DWT that the authorities were following the moves of this organisation for some time "and when the time was right we have hit them". A small quantity of crack-cocaine was also found, Commissioner Mathoera-Hussainali told DWT.

Commissioner Mathoera-Hussainali and the Prosecutor General told DWT that the police were not looking for Khan in particular, but just acted on information the police force had received about drug related activities.

"When we made the bust at the first place, information has led us to the second address. It was at this place that we have arrested Mr Khan and the other Guyanese", said the Prosecutor-General.

Jurisdiction

Meanwhile a US embassy official here who asked not to be named told Stabroek News yesterday that because Khan was arrested in another jurisdiction, the US Embassy in Georgetown would not have much to say on the matter. He however indicated that the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Washington has been in contact with its officers in Suriname on the matter.

The official said the US would no doubt allow the Surinamese authorities to carry out their investigations before any move is made to have Khan extradited to the US.

It is not clear whether local authorities have any keen interest in Khan returning here and up to yesterday officials would only say that they are allowing their Dutch counterparts to carry out their investigations.

Local police had published wanted bulletins for Khan, Rodrigues and two others in March following the discovery of illegal items on their properties during a series of joint services raids. The men had challenged the wanted bulletins through their lawyers. The matter is before the courts.

Noting that the arrest of Khan, Rodrigues and the others was a well-coordinated operation, the embassy official indicated that the US DEA in Suriname might have had a hand in advising the Surinamese authorities on how to move. The official said too that the capture of Khan is as a result of good intelligence gathering and co-ordination, something, which he said was lacking in Guyana.

Meanwhile, a police source in Paramaribo confirmed to Stabroek News that among the persons arrested in the raids was a Surinamese who heads a criminal organisation there. Asked what would be the next step for the men in custody, the source said that authorities will investigate to ascertain whether all four Guyanese are connected to the drugs and weapon find. He said if they are, then they would be prosecuted by Suriname authorities but if not they will be deported to Guyana. The source added that Khan is on Interpol's wanted list.

Contacted for a comment, one of Khan's lawyers, Vic Puran said that he had not been brought up to date with the matter. According to the attorney, his colleague, Glenn Hanoman had travelled to Suriname early yesterday morning, but he had not made contact with him as yet.

Resources

Khan, 35, fled from the US in the late 90's after he was fingered in a gun case. Since 2002 when he was held near a large cache of weapons at Good Hope, Khan has gained notoriety. He recently admitted that he used his own resources to fight crime in 2002-3 and worked closely with the crime fighting section of the police force. Additionally, Khan said that he had employed a network of ex-convicts and members of the disbanded Police Target Special Squad to work as informants and bodyguards for him. Since he was indicted by a US Grand Jury for conspiring to import cocaine into the USA, Khan has been releasing statements apparently to muster public support and to stave off any attempt to hand him over to the US authorities. He has so far criticized the US government, the main opposition, PNCR and the police force and the army. He is also thought to be behind the releasing of taped conversations allegedly between Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix and other persons.

Belfield was a police constable back in 2002 when he Khan and Haroon Yahya were found with the cache of weapons at Good Hope. All three were acquitted in the magistrate's court. Soon after, Belfield was dismissed from the police force, but from all appearances he maintained close ties with key members of the now disbanded Target Special Squad of which he was a key member. Back in February this year he had reported that his five-year-old daughter Tiffany Belfield was kidnapped from the Kingston Nursery School. Commis-sioner of Police, Felix later told reporters that the child's abduction was staged. Since then much has not been said about Belfield but many knew that he was connected with Khan.

Rodrigues, a well known detective during his days in the police force has been affiliated with Khan for a number of years. He was absent from duties for a number of months when police swooped on a house in Bel Air and arrested him and other men with a cache of arms and ammunition. That matter was also taken to the court but the men were all set free. On March 29, the police issued an arrest warrant for him, Khan, Ricardo Rodrigues and Gerald Perreira after raids on their properties unearthed a number of illegal items.

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