Princes St drive-by killing
'Informant' passes lie detector test -sources
Stabroek News
January 15, 2004

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The man who says he was an informant for the execution squad that was responsible for the death of suspected criminals and others over the last 18 months passed [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] a lie detector test yesterday.

According to sources, the polygraph test was conducted at the United States Embassy where George Bacchus has given detailed statements about the activities of the killing squad.

The source told Stabroek News that a California-based polygraph expert conducted the test at the embassy yesterday. The test determined that Bacchus's story was credible.

This is the latest development in an explosive saga that began last week when Bacchus admitted that he once used his own money to gather intelligence on criminals for the group which carried out the killings of several wanted men.

Yesterday, Bacchus declin-ed to speak to Stabroek News about his meeting at the embassy, apart from describing the discussions as confidential.

But the sources said the US Embassy is interested in the alleged activities of the death squad, corruption involving government officials, gun smuggling and drug trafficking. The embassy is also said to be interested in possible links between some local businessmen and Guyanese-born Adnan E. El Shukri-jumah who has been sought over the last year by the US Federal Bureau of Investi-gation in connection with terrorism investigations.

Bacchus has visited the US Embassy several times since his disclosure, providing officials there with detailed statements about the activities of the group and individuals with connections to its activities. These individuals include senior policemen and several prominent businessmen involved in the currency exchange and entertainment industry, who with others provided the squad with financial support and even technical aid in the form of weapons and vehicles.

Bacchus' disclosures leave the government facing many serious questions because he has said Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, was aware of the death squad and its activities.

But Gajraj, in his latest response to the allegations in an interview [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] with the BBC Caribbean Report, maintained that he has no knowledge of the existence of such a gang, let alone that he had any connections with such a group.

A Government Information Agency (GINA) report on the interview yesterday said Gajraj has dismissed Bacchus claims as nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations, although he admits that he did receive two telephone calls from Bacchus on the night his brother was shot dead.

In the interview, the minister said he is aware of allegations made by Bacchus to the effect that he called the minister after the death of his brother. "Minister Gajraj noted that Bacchus apparently became very annoyed after he did not send the police immediately to arrest persons that he had identified as being involved in the killings," GINA said.

Gajraj pointed out that he could not acquiesce to the request as it was not in accordance with standard operating procedure and he is not empowered to order arrests by the provisions of the constitution.

"Minister Gajraj spoke with the Commissioner of Police who informed him about the incident, after which George Bacchus called him and demanded that the persons he identified be arrested," the report said.

Shafeek Bacchus was killed in a drive-by shooting last Monday evening in front of the Princes Street home where his brother also resides. George Bacchus believes that he was the intended target of the execution, which he claims was done by members of the group, whose names he later delivered to the police in a statement.

There are now three men in custody, including two former policemen and a city undertaker, who all surrendered themselves to law enforcement officials. Two of the men surrendered last Friday while the other turned himself in on Monday evening. No charges have been laid against the men even though they have been held by police for several days neither have habeas corpus writs been filed on their behalf.

Yesterday, a legal source said the police report on the investigation was sent to the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will determine whether charges should be laid against the men.

Although there has been no identification parade or confrontation [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] between the men and their accuser, another source said a key issue in moving forward is the question of the lighting on the street at the time of the shooting. Bacchus claims he saw the men in the car as they fled the scene last Monday evening. Investigations were conducted to determine whether the lamp posts along the street could allow for proper visibility at that time.

Bacchus had said he was just about to turn into Princes Street from Mandela Avenue when his brother was shot and the car passed him as he made his way into the street. He said the streetlights were in working order as were the lights on his motorcycle and the car itself which was also lit. He also said that he knew one of the men for over 20 years and it would not be difficult for him to identify him. He said too that he had known the other men for a while.

A decision on whether or not the men should be charged is expected to be reached today, according to the source.

Since the third quarter of 2002, when Guyana was still gripped by a wave of unprecedented crime after the escape of five dangerous criminals from the Camp Street Prison, [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] there have been numerous unsolved murders.[ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ]

Several wanted men, including four of the prison escapees, were killed under mysterious [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] but very similar circumstances. Despite this, some law enforcement and government officials continued to deny the existence of such squads.

"If there is phantom gang operating out there it would mean that they have some ulterior motive and I will not support that concept as there will come a time when you have to deal with a Frankenstein. I do not intend to cultivate any Frankenstein," Gajraj said in a recent interview [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in the Stabroek News' Current Affairs.

But after the elimination of the criminals who had been its targets, Bacchus said, the group began to carry out executions for people who were willing to pay for its services.

And for his criticism of the work-for-hire killings, Bacchus 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, up until his brother was killed.

The main opposition People's National Congress Reform has called for a public inquiry and investigation into the allegations. Similar calls have been made [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] by other political parties and civil society groups which have also asked for the minister's resignation.

Since Monday, protesters [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] have held a daily picketing exercise outside the Ministry of Home Affairs, also calling for the resignation of the minister.

Government[ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] has indicated a willingness to investigate Bacchus' statements.