European, Latin Militaries Help Fight Drug Smuggling Across Region

first_img Cooperation also was behind Ecuador’s February 2012 capture of Heriberto Fernández Ramírez — alias “Beto” — a high-value target for Colombian authorities. Colombian police had been tracking Beto for four months and alerted counterparts in Ecuador, when he was in the port city of Guayaquil, said the director of Colombia’s counter-narcotics police, Gen. Luís Alberto Pérez. At a news conference, he maintained that Beto played a key liaison role between Colombian trafficker Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias “El Loco,” and Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel — and that he met regularly in Honduras with Sinaloa operatives to set up drug shipments. It is believed he coordinated the transport of at least seven tons of cocaine. Last September, Honduran Defense Minister Marlon Pascua claimed that 87 percent of the cocaine that makes its way into the United States from Latin America passes through Honduras. “This arrest bring us closer to Barrera,” the general said. Beto had initially worked for Colombian trafficker Maximiliano Bonilla, alias “Valenciano,” but switched his allegiance two years ago to “El Loco.” Ramírez was confronted by Ecuadoran police while walking on a street and was quickly deported to Colombia. An extradition warrant has been issued for him by a U.S. district court in Virginia, where he’s also wanted on drug-trafficking charges. Just days before the capture of Ramírez, Ecuador’s anti-narcotics chief, Nelson Villegas, announced the seizure of 1.3 tons of cocaine and the impounding of a semi-submersible used for drug smuggling in the Gulf of Guayaquil. The shipment, consisting of 1,177 packages, was stored in on the island of Puna, which was raided by police and navy units. The sub was discovered on the island of Santa Clara, 25 miles south of Puna. In early January, Ecuador’s Navy detected another semi-submersible 60 miles off the coast of Puna, but the three-man crew managed to scuttle the vessel before being arrested. “These vessels are difficult from the air and hard for surface units to detect,” said Coast Guard commander, Mauritius Alvear. Cooperation isn’t only a tactic followed by law enforcement agencies. According to the Cali newspaper El País, three of Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking networks — the Rastrojos, Urabeños and the smaller Paisas — recently met secretly in Medellín to divide the country’s trafficking routes in western Colombia. The newspaper claims the pact is designed to cease infighting among the traffickers. Fourteen countries on three continents are sending military units to patrol the Central American isthmus and share intelligence in a bid to disrupt drug trafficking, arms dealing and money laundering throughout Central America and the Caribbean. The multinational effort, dubbed Operation Martillo, involves Great Britain, Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain and the United States. It began in the last week of January but doesn’t have a set date for completion, say officials. “Many within the region now realize that cooperative security is imperative for eradicating narcotics trafficking,” said Lt. Cdr. Tellis Behel of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force. “This cooperative venture will undoubtedly enhance the effectiveness of counter-drug measures.” El Salvador’s security minister, David Munguia, said at a news conference when asked about Operation Martillo: “Any effort by the international community to combat drug trafficking is very important. As the traffic moves from south to north, it is leaving a trail of violence in all our countries.” Mexican cartels are seeking to expand operations to the Caribbean, say officials there. One example is the Dominican Republic, where authorities have detected the presence of the Sinaloa cartel in the northern Cibao region. Anibal de Castro, the country’s ambassador in Washington, recently told a U.S. Senate hearing that suspected Mexican drug dealer Luís Fernando Castillo Bertolucci confessed after his capture that the Sinaloa cartel “seeks to create a route to Europe via the Dominican Republic.” The diplomat cited evidence that the Sinaloa cartel is now operating in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros, La Vega and Jarabacoa — and that the cartel may “be getting help from Dominican criminal groups in the Cibao region to acquire chemicals used in the manufacture of narcotics.” EU-funded effort targets West African airports The Caribbean isn’t the only focus of international action regarding the Latin American drug trade. Operation COCAIR III, which is funded by the 27-nation European Union, seized substantial amounts of illicit drugs and cash after monitoring 30 international airports in West and Central Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. COCAIR III was mounted over an eight-day period last December and led to 45 seizures, including 486 kilograms of cannabis, 24 kilos of cocaine, five kilos of heroin and confiscations of Ecstacy pills and other amphetamines and methamphetamines. More than €3 million in cash also was seized. The operation brought together law enforcement agencies from Africa and Brazil, and had the support of the World Customs Organization, Interpol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. UNODC officials say COCAIR III is likely to be repeated. “Apart from the immediate success visible in the various seizures, the operation also led to increased airport checks, helped to raise awareness and reinforced the exchange of secure information between custom services and police, particularly in cocaine trafficking,” said EU officials in Accra, Ghana. “Disrupting this trafficking requires coordinated international action to reduce both the demand and the supply of drugs.” European governments have become increasingly alarmed at the increase in Latin America-produced drugs smuggled into Europe via West Africa. Ecuador nabs high-value Colombian suspect By Dialogo March 12, 2012last_img read more

President Granger Pleased With Early Voting in Guyana

first_imgGuyana President, David Granger, dressed in green shirt, seen at one polling station, today. Photo credit: Guyana’s Department of Public Information. GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (CMC) – President, David Granger, said he was “very satisfied with the turnout”, as members of the security forces began casting ballots on February 21, ahead of the March 2 regional and general elections in Guyana.“The process is smooth; it is proceeding without interruption. I am very satisfied with the turnout, and I think the people of Guyana can be assured that the disciplined forces are performing their civic duty,” said Granger, who, under the Guyana Constitution, is the Commander-in-Chief of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).Granger, a retired military officer, added “they are not being obstructed by the administration, in any way, and the administration of the elections commission seems to be functioning efficiently”.But Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, in a statement posted on his Facebook page, said prior to the vote, that the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is “aware” that a few “senior officials of the joint services have been trying to intimidate ranks and officers to vote” for the coalition administration — A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC).“We urge you not to be intimidated, as your right to vote for a political party of your choice is constitutionally enshrined. Your vote is also secret and there is also no way of determining who you vote for, as ballots cast tomorrow [February 21] will not be counted at the place of poll, but rather, they will be added to those cast on March 2,” Jagdeo wrote.The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said that members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Guyana Police Force (GPF), Guyana Fire Service (GFS) and Guyana Prison Service (GPS) were casting early ballots at 60 polling places across the country.GECOM said that an estimated 10,226 members of the disciplined forces are eligible to cast ballots at the polling stations across the ten regions.In a statement, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) said that only accredited persons will be allowed to observe the votes being cast by the disciplined forces.Granger, who visited Base Camp Ayanganna and the Police Officers Club, accompanied by senior government officials, indicated his satisfaction with the punctual start of the voting process, and emphasised his visit was not, in any way, an obstruction to the procedure.He said he expects the same efficiency on March 2.“I expect that, on the second of March, the national process will be equally satisfactory executed by the elections commission, which has responsibility for that function,” he said.GDF Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West, was the first to cast his vote at Base Camp Ayanganna, and is expecting a 95 percent turnout.He said those who were not able to vote on the 21st, will do so, with the general public, on March 2, and that every soldier has the right to vote for the political party of his/her choice.“Anybody could appeal to any citizen, at the end of the day, we are all citizens of Guyana, and we will all have those choices to make, now and in the future, and I do not see anything wrong with political leaders sharing, from their own platform, their intentions about what they will do for Guyana,” Brigadier West said.Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, who also cast his ballot, expressed his satisfaction with the easy flow of the voting process.Meanwhile, the PPP/C has issued a statement saying it is “deeply disturbed” by the recent decisions of GECOM, to reduce the number of polling places, “especially in PPP/C strongholds”.“We consider this latest development, as yet another attempt by GECOM, to frustrate voters, suppress and hinder voting and create possible confusion on Elections Day,” the party said, adding that it was calling on the technical advisors from the Commonwealth and Canada, “all the election observer teams in Guyana, the diplomatic community and civil society organizations to note our concerns and to join us in our efforts to ensure that the Guyanese electorate gets a free and fair opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote on March 2, 2020”.last_img read more

CJ grants Interim Stay in misconduct charge against Singh, Brassington

first_imgThe Chief Justice on Tuesday granted an interim stay for the matter involving charges of misconduct in public office laid against former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, stemming from the sale of the former Sanata Textiles Complex to Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII).On June 9, 2018, Singh, 45, of Lot 129 Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara, and Brassington, 50, of Florida, USA, were called before Magistrate Leron Daly, who was hearing the case on the Chief Magistrate’s behalf. The matter was adjourned to July 26. As a result, the charge, which alleges that the property was sold at a grossly undervalued price to QAII, was neither sworn to nor read.Following the charges being laid in the Magistrate’s Court, Singh and Brassington filed an affidavit in the High Court, in a manner similar to the affidavits filed when three similar charges were brought in May.Attorney Sase Gunraj, who appeared before the Chief Justice for the defendants, told <<>> that despite stringent objections from representatives of the Attorney General Chambers, his arguments prevailed and the Judge granted a stay pending the hearing and determination of the substantive action.Gunraj said that he argued that a court had already granted a stay of the other matters and this one was filed in his opinion, very capriciously in the face of the other matters being stayed. Secondly, the charges that have been filed are almost identical to the ones that were previously filed. Thirdly, there is the issue of the [matters] canvased here are the same ones canvased and considered by Justice Franklin Holder in the previous case,” he added.The Attorney said the overarching consideration was the extreme prejudice to which it exposed his clients.Singh and Brassington are already before the courts on similar charges, for which an interim stay has been granted by Justice Holder, but the charge for the sale of the Sanata Textiles Complex was filed after the stay granted, despite being almost identical in form to the previous.The charge alleges that Singh and Brassington, while performing the duties of Finance Minister and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL respectively, between October 26 and December 20, 2010, acted recklessly when they agreed to the sale of the Sanata Textiles Complex to QAII. According to the charge, the 18.976-acre property was sold for $697.8 million, but it was valued at $1.04 billion.However, according to privatisation documents published by NICIL, the property was valued at $245 million by the Government’s Chief Valuation Officer, but QAII paid $809.5 million for the property – more than three times the Government valuation.According to documents seen by this newspaper, upon Cabinet’s approval, QAII embarked on its promised programme of reclamation, clean-up and investment. On May 30, 2007, QAII had requested and received a valuation of the property from the Government Assistant Valuation Officer, which proposed $330.375 million (land $269.200 million; improvements $119.175 million). On June 7, 2018, NICIL had commissioned a valuation from the private firm of Rodrigues Architects Ltd, which posited that the property be valued at $1,042,403,500 (land $209.650 million; improvements $832.753 million). NICIL also obtained on June 27, 2007, a valuation of the land and its improvements from the Government’s Chief Valuation Officer, which came in at $245.175 million (land, $130 million; improvements $115.175 million).QAII was responsible, at its expense, for the asbestos clean-up and removal of scrap, which alone incurred a cost of above $400 million.The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) had previously brought charges against the two former Government officials in April. The two men were arraigned on charges of allegedly selling several plots of land on the East Coast of Demerara to National Hardware Guyana Ltd for over $598 million. In addition, the charges include selling land to Scady Business Corporation at a cost of $150 million, and to Multi-cinemas Guyana Inc at a cost of $185 million.Many political and social commentators, even those in the legal fraternity, have argued that the charges against the two former Government officials may be unconstitutional on the basis that they are not “public officers” in accordance with the Constitution.Following these events, former Finance Minister Sasenarine Kowlessar, who served from 1999 to 2006, was taken in for questioning at SOCU’s Kingston, Georgetown head office, and was interrogated for close to five hours before being released on $200,000 station bail.Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said the decision to charge the duo for the sale of the lands was nothing more than a “frivolous” attempt to keep the campaign promise made by the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to jail members of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).“It is all frivolous… This Government campaigned on a promise that they will jail all of us when they get into power because we’re massively corrupt … We were told that we had assets that we were not declaring to the Integrity Commission. We’re told that the People’s Progressive Party and its leaders had stolen so much money they couldn’t stash it in Guyana, they had to stash it abroad. These were the campaign. This was in the mouth of every person who spoke on the APNU platform. Jail, jail these people,” Jagdeo told the media last month.Former Finance Minister Singh expressed confidence that the charges brought against him would be disposed of in the near future, because they were frivolous and had no bearing.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Photo saved as: SaseCaption: Attorney-at-Law Sase Gunrajlast_img read more