By the end of 2022, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) had seized a whopping $1.1 billion worth of narcotics, which amounted to 3,403 kilograms. By type, the seized narcotics comprised 121.31kg of cocaine; 3280.25kg of ganja; 818.7 grams of ecstasy; 302.6 grams of methamphetamine, and 1kg of cannabis seeds. This represented a 68.26 per cent increase in seizures when compared to the seizures of 2021, when 2022.88kg of narcotics were recorded as seized.
According to statistics provided by CANU, these seizures were made in Regions Four, Six, Nine, Three, and Ten, with Region Four accounting for the largest seizure of narcotics.
In Region Four, 104.49kg of cocaine, 410.12kg of cannabis, 302.6g of methamphetamine, 366g of ecstasy, and 1kg of cannabis seeds were confiscated. In Region Six, 50g of cocaine, 2845.52kg of cannabis, and 452.7g of ecstasy were seized by the unit; while in Region Nine, 22g of cocaine and 4.81 kg of cannabis were seized.
16.74kg of cocaine and 118g of cannabis were seized in Region Three, while 19.67kg of cannabis were confiscated in Region 10.
In respect to cases and convictions, CANU reported that, for 2022, from the 115 cases that were made out for narco-trafficking, 42 convictions were secured. This also showed an increase from 2021, when 75 cases made out and 24 convictions were secured.
Of the 115 cases made out in 2022, 80 were for possession of cannabis, 29 were for possession of cocaine, four were for possession of ecstasy, and two were for possession of methamphetamine.
CANU has also had a successful year with the removal of illegal guns, ammunition, and other weapons off the streets. In fact, 21 weapons were seized, comprising of one crossbow, eight shotguns and 12 pistols.
In addition, 50 rounds of .22mm ammunition were confiscated, along with 25 rounds of .32 ammunition; 100 rounds of .38 ammunition; two rounds of .9mm short ammunition; 349 rounds of 9mm ammunition; 1170 12-gauge cartridges, and 12 rounds of .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) ammunition.
Apart from the successes in weapons and narcotics’ seizures, the Unit’s other notable achievements in 2022 were as follows: formation of several units to bolster operations – Metal Monitoring Unit, Joint Maritime Control Unit, and Container Scanning Unit; its active involvement in investigating other criminal activities (terrorism, arms’ trafficking, human trafficking, wildlife trafficking); enhancing its human resource capacity through international and domestic training; and strengthening regional and international relationships through co-operation and sharing of information.
Further, there was greater collaboration among domestic agencies through several successful joint operations; the discovery and destruction of illegal airstrips, and sharing of information on trans-shipment routes – maritime & air.
Also, over the past months, CANU has intercepted several persons who have been under surveillance for the past 25 years. These include Kay Butcher, James Herbert, Lena Narine, Michael Morgan, and others.
Back in April, Butcher, Narine, and Herbert were nabbed with $12.9 million worth of cocaine and ecstasy pills. They were later slapped with drug trafficking charges when they appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts, and were all released on cash bail.
Michael Andrew Morgan was also arrested with several firearms, ammunition, and a quantity of cocaine. The cocaine had a total weight of 3.27kg (7.1 pounds) and a street value of approximately $3.5 million. He was subsequently charged and remanded to prison.
Meanwhile, back in August 2021, the Unit had reported that, as it continues to strengthen its efforts to clamp down on narcotics’ trafficking in Guyana, it would be focusing on tackling challenges such as new trafficking routes and secret airstrips with the hope of minimising trafficking activities and reducing the amount of illicit drugs on the market.
In regard to new and emerging routes of trafficking narcotics to evade law enforcement, CANU said it is collaborating with other agencies in response.
“The Unit has discovered new trends in the routes used by illicit drug traffickers through extensive observation and analysis of the points of seizures. Though some of the routes are speculative, CANU intends to collaborate with sister law enforcement agencies to intercept drugs trafficked along these routes, as well as deter narcotics’ trafficking and cultivation within specific areas.”
Additionally, the anti-narcotics agency highlighted that clandestine airstrips, especially in the hinterland regions, are another area of concern. In fact, it was noted that throughout 2021 and in the first quarter of this year, there had been numerous reports of abandoned aircraft being discovered at such locations.
“The Unit plans to create tools to pinpoint the locations of any potential sites for clandestine airstrips, which are thought to be one of the means by which the drug trade is facilitated. The Unit is dedicated to increasing its ability to meet this challenge”, it has been said.
The Half-Year Report also pointed out that corruption within agencies is a deterrent to anti-narcotics’ efforts, while noting that, like many other countries, Guyana is no exception to corruption and illegal drug trafficking.
“There have been numerous reports of drug traffickers using their financial clout to influence officials working within the system in order to allow the free flow of their illicit activities. In the face of this dangerous and illegal practice, the Unit continues to strive unyieldingly to expose and root out this ill within agencies, identifying officials who facilitate these illegal activities.”
Head of the Unit, James Singh, in an invited comment, told Guyana Times that despite the challenges, the Unit will continue to pursue its mandate in the hope of minimising such activities and reducing the amount of illicit drugs on the market.
These include better interagency support; stakeholders’ involvement in the Private Sector; joint programmes with education, health and social services; and working with communities on outreach programmes.
Singh also commended the support his Unit has received from the Government of Guyana, especially the Home Affairs Ministry.