Businessman in custody
Stabroek News
August 18, 2002

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A Kitty businessman, wanted by the army and police in connection with the recent arms racket, was nabbed by members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) on Friday night.

Sources said the 31-year-old Dowding Street, Kitty resident was handed over to the police at Criminal Investigations Department headquarters close to midnight on Friday, after soldiers found him hiding in a house at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

The law enforcement officials were looking for the man since last Friday after four soldiers admitted selling one of the army's rifles to him. The soldiers were arrested two Thursdays ago over the sale and attempted sale of weapons, including two M70 rifles and two AK47 assault rifles and magazines. One AK47 and an M70 rifles are still missing.

Following a joint army/police operation last Monday, Berbice businessman Salim Bacchus and his friend, Mohamed Shaharudin, were arrested together with Brazil and Suriname nationals, Amanda Sueli Dos Santos Vale and Yohan Soekha, respectively.

They all appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder-Allen on Friday, but the two locals denied several counts of unlawful possession and theft of the army weapons, as well as charges of harbouring illegal immigrants. The foreigners, who pleaded guilty to the charges of entering Guyana illegally, were jailed for one week and one month, respectively. They will be deported after serving their time.

The army launched a probe earlier this month after an AK47 was found in a black plastic bag under a bed at the Ruimveldt Coast Guard base in Georgetown. Subsequent checks in the arms room revealed that another AK47 and two M70 rifles were missing, an army source told this newspaper.

Stabroek News understands that one of the two missing M70s was found in the possession of one of the soldiers.

"He [the soldier] was arrested while trying to steal [the weapon]. It was taken from arms store at Ruimveldt with the intention of being sold," a source said. Further investigations revealed that two other soldiers were instrumental in the sale of the weapons. Sources say a Lance Corporal stole the weapons and a private organised the sales.

One of them admitted stealing the missing AK47 in late July while a team of soldiers were transporting wea-pons from Cove and John, East Coast Demerara, to a Coast Guard base at Annan-dale. That weapon was discovered missing a day after the move.

Stabroek News understands that the other two soldiers were arrested after a full magazine for one of the weapons vanished from the arms store and was found in a cupboard belonging to one of the ranks.

Now that the last person who was wanted in the probe has been detained, the army hopes to complete its investigation by tomorrow.

The crucial issue to be determined is whether the ranks will have to face court martial, or handed over to the police to face criminal charges.

During the recent crime spree that has taken the country by storm, criminals have been using high-powered weapons, including AK47s and M70s.