GUYANA: Cocaine Smuggling: Serious deficiencies exposed in GRA’s system – CANU report

Nand Persaud, Berbice’s biggest rice miller

A major investigation involving the seizure of one and a half tonnes of cocaine by German authorities in a container of rice that came from Guyana, has raised troubling questions about the system at Customs.

It appeared that local investigators, including those from the Customs Anti Narcotic Unit (CANU), were stumped when it was discovered that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) system, called Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), was reflecting something other than what left Guyana.     

Kaieteur News was told that ASYCUDA reflected 20 containers when investigators went in. However, the miller, Nand Persaud and Company Limited, only sent out 12. This was reflected from shipping documents filed with the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).

While CANU has discounted any possibilities of the cocaine being packed here in Guyana, it is how ASYCUDA, said to be such a robust system, could be reflecting a wrong number of containers and for it not to be picked up that worried CANU.

That body prepared a public statement last week and this is what it had to say about GRA’s ASYCUDA system, regarding Customs:

“CANU has conducted an extensive investigation into the handling, shipping and export of this shipment of white rice and has not yet found conclusive evidence that suggests that the suspected narcotic was loaded onto the contaminated container in Guyana.”

Nevertheless, the unit said, there were unearthed “loopholes and irregularities regarding the local handling of the shipment which has resulted in a collaborative investigation by CANU and GRA seeking to amend same.”
It appears even that there were attempts to delete entries, Kaieteur News was told by a number of sources.
CANU, tight-lipped on details, made it clear it will continue to participate in inter-agency collaborations in its bid to tighten the grip on narcotic distributors throughout the country.

Meanwhile, Nand Persaud Group of Companies in a statement expressing relief that its name has been cleared, expressed worry of the strength of the Customs and other systems in Guyana.

“We have taken note, with deep concern, the recent seizure of a large quantity of illicit drugs by German authorities. It was reported that the drugs, more than 1,500kg, was found in one of our containers that shipped rice that originated from Guyana. The container was among more than a dozen that left here in May,” the statement disclosed.

The group disclosed it was engaged by local investigators and cooperated.
“The investigations found that our containers were scanned by Customs and it was clear that there were no anomalies. In fact, CANU in a public statement on Thursday stated they have conducted an extensive investigation into the handling, shipping and export of this shipment of white rice and has not yet found conclusive evidence that suggests that the suspected narcotic was loaded onto the contaminated container in Guyana.”

Nand Persaud made it clear that it has always prided itself as a solid corporate citizen with over 30 years of experience in agriculture.
“In fact, in Berbice, we can boast proudly we have positively impacted people today becoming the largest single private sector employer. Our taxes contributions and the fact our rice exports account for more than 25 percent of containers leaving Guyana cannot be erased. Our holdings include not only mills and agricultural parts, but range from auto sales to real estate. Our Group is proud of being one of the most recognised and respected names in Guyana and sits on several private sector bodies.”
The company said it has received numerous awards for its contributions to business in Guyana.
“Our brand, Karibee, is a household name in the region and meeting more than 25 markets worldwide.
As you are aware, we played a major role in adding several international markets including Cuba. However, we are also concerned by the number of queries from our overseas customers.”
The group said it remains confident in the work of the investigators.
“We are deeply worried that this is not the end of incidents. We call on the authorities to continue to strengthen their systems so that we can be assured that a repeat is not likely.”

The seizure in Germany had threatened a major part of the country’s rice export market which is controlled by the company.
According to CANU last week, the seizure was made on August 10 at Hamburg Port, Germany by police.

CANU found that the drugs were discovered in a 20-foot container containing several bags of white rice shipped from Guyana.“The said contaminated container was one out of a shipment of a total of 12 20-feet containers. That entire shipment of the 12 containers comprised 6,000 bags of white rice intended for export to a company in Poland. The vessel intended to transport the said 12 containers was loaded and sailed from Guyana between the 25th and 26th May, 2020.”

According to CANU, it was confirmed that all 12 of the said containers were scanned locally by operatives of the GRA and no narcotic was detected nor were their seals appeared to have been tampered with.

In fact the containers were in-transit elsewhere.
“It is key to note that the said vessel which departed Guyana arrived on June 7th, 2020 in another territory where the said 12 containers were reportedly off loaded in that territory and remained in –transit for a total of six days after which those 12 containers which included the one later found to be contaminated were then re-loaded onto another vessel different from the vessel that initially transported those 12 containers from Guyana.

That said, a second vessel with the 12 containers and its other cargo then arrived in Hamburg, Germany on June 27th, 2020 and discharged the said 12 containers the following day, June 28th, 2020.

“The said 12 containers remained at their boarded location in Germany for several days after which they were then searched and the suspected narcotic were intercepted on Monday 10th August 2020.”

According to CANU, there was evidence that the container was handled elsewhere.
“Importantly, newspaper clippings out of the territory in which the said 12 containers remained in-transit were found to have been used to wrap some of the bundles of suspected narcotic intercepted in Germany.”

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Comments

  • brandli62  On August 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

    This is all very troubling and has to potential to discredit Guyana. CANU mentions that:
    “It is key to note that the said vessel which departed Guyana arrived on June 7th, 2020 in another territory where the said 12 containers were reportedly off loaded in that territory and remained in –transit for a total of six days after which those 12 containers which included the one later found to be contaminated were then re-loaded onto another vessel different from the vessel that initially transported those 12 containers from Guyana.”

    Why does CANU fail to identify the “territory”, where the cocaine was supposedly loaded to one of the 12 containers with rice from Guyana? What is the prove that this whole story is true and not a tale to distract?

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