Amidst criticism of its establishment, the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of corruption at the
Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) on Monday heard the testimony of self-confessed drug lord Barry Dataram.
Dataram appeared unrepresented before single Commissioner, Retired Brigadier Bruce Lovell at the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of the Public Service Office on Vlissengen Road.
The inquiry heard of allegations that CANU officers have with drug traffickers. The retired Brigadier was appointed by President David Granger to probe allegations which Dataram expressed in an on-camera interview with HGPTV Nightly News in February.
Dataram reportedly disclosed that he based his testimony on what he knows about CANU’s operations. Earlier this year, during an interview with television reporter Travis Chase the self-confessed drug dealer alleged that senior officials of CANU are involved in illegal drug activities. He had also stated that one of the agents bagged some “$10 million in exchange” for allowing cocaine to leave the country.
Dataram had also told the newscast that CANU was “the biggest drug dealer” this country has and alleged that half of drugs seized “goes back on the street”.
Dataram had further alleged that staff associated with CANU would obtain $5 million upfront from the trafficker while the balance of 50 per cent would be paid on arrival of the cocaine in Canada or the United States. Following the numerous allegations, President David Granger had revealed that the National Security Committee (NSC) headed by himself had decided to establish a Board of Inquiry to look into the allegations.
However, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in a statement had said while it supports any effort to ensure that CANU maintains its integrity and professionalism, it was dismayed at the President’s haste to probe allegations made by a known drug trafficker who is seeking to bring into disrepute the whole of CANU. Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan who supported the probe had stated he was confident CANU would be exonerated.
He had rubbished Dataram’s claims, and stated that, “I disbelieve all of them but that’s my opinion. It’s like Pablo Escobar saying that the Drug Enforcement Agency is not a good thing because of course he has interests but indeed we have to pay attention to what was said to clear it up and I want to believe that an inquiry would be the best way to deal with it.”
CANU Head James Singh said Dataram’s “savagery” against CANU may be as a result of his uneasiness owing to the commencement of his trial for possession of 129.230kg of cocaine found in shrimp at his Lot 661 Fourth Avenue, Block X, Diamond, East Bank Demerara, residence on April 16, 2015.