Police hunt businessman as $90M extortion probe intensifies
– former journalists remain in custody
As the Guyana Police Force (GPF) intensifies its probe into attempts to extort a whopping $90 million from a local auto dealer, investigators are now on the hunt for an overseas-based businessman who has been fingered in the conspiracy.
On Saturday, it was revealed that two reporters – Alex Wayne, 49, of Huntly Village, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara; and 41-year-old Gary Eleazar of Da Silva Street, Newtown, Kitty, Georgetown – were arrested after they were caught extorting monies, during a sting operation, from an auto dealer in exchange for the removal of a “libellous” article from a social media platform.
The article was published on the Facebook page of Guyana News Network (GNN), which purports to be a “news agency”, with the auto dealer’s photograph alleging that he is involved in illegal activities – something which he said is untrue but caused him to be “embarrassed” and his “reputation was tarnished”. The site is said to be operated by an overseas-based political activist.
A source close to the investigation told Guyana Times on Sunday that the Police have since obtained voice recordings of the political activist, who has ties to the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), and an overseas-based Guyanese businessman, both demanding $90 million from the local auto dealer in order to remove the article published about him.
As such, investigators are looking for an overseas-based businessman, who is presently in Guyana. He was taken to court last year for allegedly importing illegal fuel into Guyana, for further questioning into the matter.
In addition, the source also revealed to this publication that Eleazar, who has access to the social media page, along with Wayne approached the auto dealer separately and requested $10 million instead to remove the article from social media.
It was at this point that the auto dealer went to the Police on August 29 and filed a report about the extortion. This resulted in the Police setting up the sting operation to catch the two journalists, who are reportedly close associates of the overseas-based businessman.
The intelligence-led operation was conducted on the East Coast of Demerara sometime between 15:40h and 16:35h on Friday. During the sting operation, both Wayne and Eleazar went to the businessman to extort cash.
As a result, investigators then gave the businessman some money, along with certain instructions. The two reporters were then seen arriving at the location and going to the businessman. The trio engaged in conversation during which Wayne and Eleazar demanded $1 million in order to remove the post from the GNN Facebook page.
In fact, Wayne took out his computer and handed same over to Eleazar, who went to the website and attempted to remove the post but then claimed that the password that he was in possession of, was not working at the time for some reason.
As a result, the $1 million was handed over to the two journalists as a down payment in keeping with their demands. The duo collected the money and indicated to the businessman that they would return sometime after to remove the post and collect the outstanding monies.
However, as Wayne and Eleazar were about to leave the business establishment, they were intercepted by the Police and told of the allegation. The officers then conducted a search during which a portion of the money was found on Eleazar, while some was found on Wayne.
Additionally, two cellular phones and a laptop were immediately seized from the duo. Further searches were conducted at their homes. A laptop and three hard drives were recovered from Eleazar’s residence and nothing further was found at Wayne’s home.
The items found at the home and the two suspects were taken into custody.
It was reported that a video and audio interview was conducted with Wayne during which he admitted to investigators that he acted in concert with Eleazar and the overseas-based businessman to create and publish the false article about the local auto dealer on GNN’s Facebook page.
According to Wayne, the two businessmen have “an ongoing issue”.
Nevertheless, the two reporters remain in Police custody as investigations continue.