'I was paid to keep quiet'
-man who says he witnessed death squad hit
Stabroek News
June 17, 2004

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A witness to a drive-by shooting carried out by alleged death squad `hitmen' claims he was paid to withhold his testimony.

But he is willing to expose the men who claimed they were working for a senior government functionary when they paid him off.

"They said if anything should happen to the [`hitman']... [he] would be angered and terrible things would happen to me," the eyewitness told Stabroek News yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

By the time the men approached him he had already given a statement to the police about the drive-by killing, during which he saw one of the men who was in the car.

He said in mid-April he was approached by two men, who sought him out and offered him the cash on the spot for agreeing to withhold his testimony against one of the men implicated.

He admits that he did not hesitate to accept the money because of the threats that were made at the time.

But he says he is willing now to go to the police and identify the two men who he claims put more fear in him than anything else.

"I already live my life... I done do all the things I supposed to do..." said the man, whose admission comes in the wake of a similar disclosure by death squad informant George Bacchus. He too has said that he was offered a bribe to retract allegations he made against Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj.

Bacchus has alleged that the minister knew about the activities of a group of `hitmen' who targeted wanted criminals during the crime wave in the period 2002-2003. He has also implicated several senior policemen and prominent businessmen, who provided the group with financial and tactical support.

Bacchus stands by his claims, although earlier in the week PPP Parliamentarian Shirley Edwards revealed that he retracted the shocking allegations of his own free will in a taped conversation. Bacchus said he had done this for the promised money and safe passage out of the country.

Last week PNCR leader Robert Corbin said his party had evidence that potential witnesses were being bribed. He had promised to release the evidence to the Commissioner of Police and the media.