Put phantoms on wanted bulletins, says ex-informant
-Gov't willing to investigate death squad allegations
Stabroek News
January 10, 2004

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George Bacchus, the man who says he was an informer for a death squad says he is only interested in having all the people involved in the activities of the group exposed to the public.

"They should have their faces on wanted bulletins..." the man said yesterday. "I want everybody to know who these people are."

His explosive disclosures if substantiated leave the government facing many serious questions given that a senior official has been linked to what has become known as the 'phantom gang'.

And yesterday the government signalled its willingness to inquire into the recent disclosures made by the man.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon said that in the face of the allegations in the media and the statements by the Opposition, the reports did come up for some attention in the Office of the President.

"It would (not) be unexpected that were those allegations properly presented to the competent authorities ... an examination of the basis of these things could be pursued."

He added, "I know the names. I have heard these names (of those purported to be involved with the gang) but I must admit unfortunately I have never had any personal contact with those individuals."

The self-professed ex-informant says it is because he spoke out about the excesses of the group after it started killing for hire, that the people he once helped are now trying to kill him.

On Monday, his brother, Shafeek Bacchus, was killed in a drive-by shooting in front of the home they shared, in what the ex-informant believes was a case of mistaken identity. His brother bore a close resemblance to him and that was why immediately after the shooting the hit-men reportedly said "Wrong man! Wrong man!"

On Tuesday Bacchus visited the American Embassy and gave officials there a detailed statement about the activities of the group, to which he tied the senior official and several prominent businessmen. He has met with Embassy officials every day since his brother's death.

Bacchus says it is not his brother's death which prompted him to make a full disclosure but the killings that continued even after the group had fulfilled its original purpose. He said before his brother's death he had delivered a written statement detailing the activities of the groups and identifying the persons involved to an attorney for safekeeping.

Bacchus said the group was formed in response to the spiralling crime wave which gripped Guyana in 2002, following the escape of five dangerous criminals from the Camp Street Prison. The five prison escapees are believed to have led the criminal campaign during which villages on the East Coast of Demerara were terrorised by a wave of almost daily attacks by heavily armed bandits.

The atrocities that were committed with victims viciously murdered, is what Bacchus said led to his involvement in the group, for whom he would gather intelligence and locate criminals.

Several wanted men and others who are believed to be their accomplices were executed in what were clearly well planned attacks.

After the deaths of four of the escapees the group was expected to fade into the background, but the killings continued. There were abductions and the bullet-riddled bodies of several men were mysteriously found dumped in parts of the city and on the East Coast.

Yesterday Bacchus said that some of the bodies that have yet to be discovered were dumped in the swamp behind the Botanical Gardens, where the skeletal remains of one abducted man Andre Ettiena was found in November.

The recent killings prompted Bacchus to complain to the government official, who he said was in control of the gang. Bacchus also says that the group was responsible for killings about which the official had no knowledge.

Among the people who were identified as having provided support to the group are businessmen who have interests in currency exchange and the entertainment and funeral industries.

On Wednesday, Bacchus submitted the names of two men involved in his brother's killing to the police force, although there have been no arrests.

In other developments another political party, the Rise, Organise and Rebuild (ROAR) Guyana movement, joined the main opposition PNCR in its call for an official inquiry into the alleged role of the state in the operations of the execution squad.

"ROAR believes that there is now, in the public domain, enough

evidence to warrant an official inquiry..." the party said in a statement that was issued yesterday.

Like the PNCR, ROAR says it has constantly maintained that the citizenry should have been concerned about the danger posed by the members of a death squad which was deciding who was a criminal.

That this could occur, ROAR contends, is because the Government refused to deal directly with the security situation and failed to ensure that the police force could fulfil its duties. It was noted that there has been a delay in the creation of a Spacial Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit to deal with heightened crime.

ROAR argues that the creation of a death squad is an invitation to disaster and says that no justification can be found in the failure of the police force, which would mean accepting the failure of the state.

"We saw the excesses that could be triggered when even an official unit [like the Black Clothes] was allowed to exceed its mandate... Imagine when there may be official imprimatur for a death squad," the party notes.

"Guyana has to ensure that there are no death squads or we are ensuring the death of the Guyanese state."