Man who says he was death squad informant speaks out
-spotlight on government official, US embassy contacted
January 8, 2004
The government is facing serious questions following reports that a senior administration official has been in close contact with members of a squad said to be responsible for numerous executions over the last year.
These revelations have come to light after a man, who says he was once an informant for what has become known as the 'phantom group' and used his own money to gather information, delivered the names of the official and other persons with links to the execution squad to the United States Embassy. He now fears for his life and told Stabroek News yesterday the group has been constantly monitoring his activities and made at least one attempt to kill him.
The US Embassy yesterday confirmed that statements were given to embassy officials but could not divulge any details.
When asked about these developments yesterday, Prime Minister Sam Hinds, performing the functions of President said: "I am very sure that the reports [linking a top Government official with the death squad] have been seen and noted ...[And] the people specifically involved are taking note of the statements being made."
The government official has been singled out as having been deeply involved in the activities of the squad which also has ties to several businessmen in the city who have been funding their activities.
Although the informant did not detail the exact extent of police involvement, he told Stabroek News in an interview yesterday that several members of the force were involved in the group's activities.
Telephone records, which Stabroek News has seen, indicate that a suspected key gang member Axel Williams, who was killed on December 10 in Bel Air in a well organised hit, made several calls to a ministry and to the residence of an official at the ministry. This newspaper has seen records of calls made to Williams' cell phone including three on November 24, from a number said to be from the official's residence as well as more than a dozen calls from a number whose first three digits are 999 - a number apparently assigned for special purposes.
Since the third quarter of 2002 - when Guyana's crime rate skyrocketed after the escape of five dangerous criminals from the Camp Street Prison - there have been numerous killings that have been attributed to this execution squad and others.
The man said "the atrocities" carried out by criminals during the crime wave in 2002 had inspired his involvement as an informant but he added that this was the full extent of his participation in the group's activities.
He said he was responsible for the collection of intelligence for the group, often locating criminals whom the group was targeting.
Several wanted men were killed under mysterious but very similar circumstances, and despite this some law enforcement and government officials continued to deny the existence of such squads. The informant indicated that he was instrumental in locating several most wanted prisoners who were later killed in police sieges.
But after the elimination of the criminals that had been its targets, the ex-informant says the group began to carry out executions for people who were willing to pay for their services. The man also identified to embassy officials a spot in the city, where people who were abducted by the group were tortured. Although by this time he had left the group, he was still critical of their activities. This included several killings that continued even after the death of escapee Shawn Brown.
"I told the [official] about the killings over and over," the man said yesterday...
"He said he would `look into it.'"
"Those men killing people all over and some a dem innocent, if a man jam you car and you want he dead all you have to do is pay dem men."
But instead, for his criticism of the group's activities, the man said he became a target as his concerns were filtered back to the squad. He said he was even placed under surveillance by some of the gunmen, who would park their cars along his street, watching his house.
But it was the most recent execution in the city, that of Shafeek Bacchus, who was gunned down on Monday in front of his Princes Street home, which prompted the former informant to speak out.
The man believes he was the intended target of that hit and knows at least two men who he says were part of the group that carried out the murder. He has given a statement to police with this information.
The man said on Monday night he contacted the senior government official twice, who promised that an investigation would be done.
On Tuesday morning, in the company of his lawyer, the man visited the US Embassy, where he provided officials with a detailed statement about the activities of the group and individuals with connections to their activities. These individuals, who include ironically enough, an undertaker, as well as several other prominent businessmen involved in the currency exchange and entertainment industry, among others, provided the squad with financial support and even technical support in the form of weapons and vehicles. He said the vehicles were regularly repainted and licence plates changed within a day.
Describing the members of the squad the man said some of them are neatly dressed and driving "big fancy vehicles". According to him the men are given access to vehicles owned by the persons whose "backs deh watching".
Asked about whether he was fearful for his life the man said,
"How can you feel safe when you have guns pointed at you all the time...? But I am not afraid ...I will speak out and something will have to be done."
The man lamented that he does not even trust members of the force since he does not know who is who.
And what does he hope to gain from going to the US embassy? The man says he is not really sure but said he trusted the officials and know they would investigate thoroughly. He has also contacted Amnesty International and hopes to get some assistance from that organisation.