Five charged in $24M cocaine bust

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The cocaine packages that were retrieved from the bottles (CANU photo)

AFTER almost a week of investigations by the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), five men were charged on Tuesday in connection with the over $24M worth of drugs found during a sting operation at Parika, East Bank Essequibo.

The men, Khemraj Lall, 39, of Zeelugt EBE; Marlon Lawrence, 36 of Felicity, East Coast Demerara(ECD) ; Rajendra Persaud, 47 of Liliendaal, ECD; Doodnauth Chattgroon, 36 of Zeelugt and Cleve Thornhill, all appeared before Magistrate Rushell Liverpool at the Leonora Magistrates’ court jointly charged with drug trafficking.

The men hiding their faces from the media while making their way into the Leonora police lock-ups after their court appearance.

The men were charged with trafficking 35 kilogrammes of cannabis and 13.8 kilograms of cocaine on June 6, 2018 at Parika. All of the men, except Thornhill, denied the charge. Thornhill pleaded guilty and told the court that he was hired to transport the gas bottles from Charity to Parika in his boat, where he would later pass in another vehicle at the Parika wharf. He admitted to transporting the two plastic gas bottles, but he said he did not have knowledge of what was inside the drums.

Lall’s and Chattgroon’s attorney, Bernard Da Silva, told the court that his client was found seated in a motor car a short distance away from where the drugs were found.
CANU Prosecutor Konyo Sandiford told the court that CANU ranks on June 6, 2018 at Parika, East Bank Essequibo, intercepted the five men with the cocaine and cannabis stashed in false bottoms of two 15-gallon gas bottles.

According to reports, CANU was able to make the bust after receiving information regarding a shipment of drugs arriving at Parika from Charity in a speed boat.

The plastic containers in which the drugs were found (CANU photo)

Acting on the information received, CANU officers then went to the Parika location where they intercepted motor vehicles PSS 8019 and PVV 7934. In one motor car Lawrence and Persaud were inside, while Thornhill and the other co-accused were in the other vehicle.
The vehicle was searched and two blue 15-gallon gas bottles with bottoms cut and covered with brown paste. A further examination of the containers revealed several packages with some containing cannabis and others had the suspected cocaine.

CANU prospector Kunyo Sandiford objected to the five defendants being released on bail citing the seriousness of the charge. Magistrate Liverpool remanded all five of the men to prison until July 3. Thornhill was guided by the magistrate to seek legal advice and report back on his next court appearance.