Hitmen 'still driving around'
-former phantom informant -Corbin calls for inquiry
Stabroek News
January 9, 2004

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Despite telling police the names of people involved in the murder of Shafeek Bacchus, a man who contends he was the real target of Monday's hit, says the police have done nothing and the men are still moving freely among the public.

"Those guys are still driving around... up 'til today..." he told Stabroek News yesterday. The man, who says he was once an informant for a notorious death squad responsible for numerous murders, met again yesterday with United States Embassy officials, to whom he has given information implicating a senior government official in the group's activities.

And in the wake of these potentially explosive disclosures, the PNCR is now calling for an investigation to verify the claims of the man, who says the 'phantom gang' has now turned to killing for hire.

The ex-informant, who admits that he used his own money to gather intelligence on criminals for the group, has decided to speak out after a failed attempt on his life that left another man dead.

The man has implicated the senior official and several prominent businessmen over their involvement in the executions of wanted men and the killings of prison escapees who are believed to have been the catalyst behind the 2002 crime wave.

Yesterday, PNCR leader Robert Corbin called for a public inquiry and investigation into the state official's alleged involvement in criminal enterprises.

At the PNCR's weekly press conference, Corbin said despite the government's continuous denials, the recent disclosures have vindicated the party. Over the last year, the party has repeatedly spoken of what it claims to be the involvement of senior functionaries in crime, in particular the drug trade and murders for hire.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds, performing the functions of president, yesterday declined to make any further comment on the matter.

When asked about these developments on Wednesday, Hinds had told Stabroek News: "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."

According to the information the man has provided, the senior official was deeply involved in the activities of the squad, over which he had direct control. The man did not detail the extent of police involvement but did say 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 the Home Affairs Ministry and to the residence of a ministry official. There are phone records showing 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.

Among the people who were singled out for providing financial and technical support to the group are businessmen who have interests in currency exchange and the entertainment and funeral industries.

A spot in the city where victims were tortured was also identified.

Even before his recent disclosures, the man says he had delivered a written statement - detailing the activities of the groups and identifying the persons involved - to an attorney for safekeeping. He said he had done this as a precaution in the event of his death.

The man's disclosure follows the death of Shafeek Bacchus, who he says was killed by the gang after being mistaken for him. This was after his constant complaints to the official about the activities of the group, which began to sell their services to people willing to pay. He said the official apparently leaked his complaints back to the gang which then began to monitor his movements.

Bacchus, a cattle farmer, was shot dead on Monday night in a drive-by shooting in front of his house on Princes Street.

On Tuesday morning, accompanied by his attorney, the man visited the US Embassy and said he disclosed his knowledge of the gang's activities to officials there. Although an embassy official acknowledged that the statements had been received, the embassy has not released any details of the disclosures.