GRA scanner image of scrap metal container deleted; customs officers, broker locked up

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is making efforts to recover a scanner image of one of  the scrap metal containers in in which 11.5 tons of cocaine worth more  than GYD$220 billion have been busted by Belgian authorities.

Sources believed that there was some collusion to delete the image from  the system, but the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Godfrey Statia said experts would resort to a data recovery system to retrieve the image. “The containers were scanned, and the image is being restored for evaluation by the experts,” he told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News.

In all five containers of scrap metal left Guyana for Europe.

Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), Joseph Singh would only say that the GRA has not yet provided the image due to a technical glitch.

The CANU Chief said the customs officer, who was responsible for the sealing of the shipping container, the two officers who were working at the container scanner at the time, and the customs broker were locked up at a police station as investigators tried to piece together information.

Mr. Singh said Marlon Primo of MA Trading registered at 35 Factory Road, Paradise, East Coast Demerara was still wanted for questioning by CANU agents as it was his company that exported the scrap metal. The CANU Head said anti-drug agents were now looking for Mr. Primo’s girlfriend because they believed that she might be harbouring him from law enforcers.

The woman has since deleted her Facebook account, Singh noted.

Belgian authorities have said they had been keeping an eye on the shipment since it left Guyana on September 25. The containers were  discharged in transit at Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, a French Caribbean dependency,  on September 28 where they remained until  October 3 when they left on a vessel direct to Zeebrugge in Belgium where it arrived on 15 October.

The catch is “the largest overseas drug bust ever, worldwide,” federal prosecutors told Belgian media, estimating the street value of the drug load at €900 million.

The massive load of cocaine left a port in Guyana on late October and prosecutors were able to track following the dismantlement of a drug trafficking gang led by a former Belgian counternarcotics chief which revealed the existence of tight-knit links between criminal gangs and counternarcotics and law enforcement officials.

Three police officers, a port manager and a lawyer were among some 20 other criminals arrested as part of the operation targeting the “well-structured” criminal organisation suspected of orchestrating large and “regular” drug shipments from South America to Belgium.

The record-breaking shipment was expected by law enforcement officials as it is suspected it left the port of Guyana after the drug gang’s arrest in Belgium, with drug gangs unable to intercept it once at sea, De Standaard reports.

It was disguised as scrap metal and placed inside a steel container which was in turn packed into a sea container and loaded into a transatlantic vessel.

The dismantlement of the drug gang in late September led to the arrest and indictment of 22 people, with three people still in the Netherlands awaiting extradition.

Following the record-breaking drug bust on Wednesday, three others were arrested, including one person who is facing extradition to Belgium from the Netherlands.

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