Jagdeo in no hurry to appoint Top Cop
-Kerik to be contracted from February 1 By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
January 26, 2007

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President Bharrat Jagdeo says that he is in no hurry to appoint acting commissioner Henry Greene as the substantive Police Commissioner and announced that from February 1 former New York Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik will be contracted to provide security advice to him and the Minister of Home Affairs.

According to the President, Kerik will be hired on a one-year retainer contract. The President made it clear that Kerik would not be paid from the US$20M IDB citizen security loan, noting that if Kerik wants to be part of that scheme then he would have to tender.

A cloud has been hanging over the impending appointment of Greene whose visas to the US were revoked last year after Washington alleged that the Acting Police Commissioner had benefited materially from the drugs trade. Greene has since denied the allegations but the US has not revisited its position and it is felt that this was the reason why Greene has not been appointed as yet.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday the President said that he had confidence in Greene, noting that the Acting Commissioner was doing a good job. "But I am in no hurry to appoint him," the President declared.

In the run up to general elections last year the President had told the media that the administration had asked the US to provide the specifics of the charges against Greene. Jagdeo had said that the administration was not prepared to move against the Acting Commissioner on mere rumours. When the President was asked back then whether his government had confidence in Greene and was prepared to appoint him, Jagdeo replied that Greene had acted several times as commissioner and they did not have a problem with him. He said however that they had to wait until the tenure of retired Commissioner Winston Felix came to an end before any appointment could be made. Felix's retirement took effect from October 30. The President had also said then that government would wait until after the general election was decided and everything was in place to appoint a commissioner.

When asked yesterday why he was in no hurry to appoint Greene given his earlier undertaking that it would happen after the elections Jagdeo said he did not promise that, although admitting that he did say he would deal with the matter after elections. "I can't imagine seeing that you would see dealing with the issue of appointment of a commissioner as my commitment to appoint this specific commissioner," President Bharrat Jagdeo said.

Greene in a statement denying the allegations had said that it was obvious that unjustified and improperly motivated attempts were being made to besmirch his good name and character. The US had revoked Greene's diplomatic visa in April last year before taking back his visitor's visa in June.

Greene said the revocation was a painful event for him, but he noted that it is the prerogative of foreign states to grant a visa and to also revoke such visas in their own deliberate judgment, subject to the application of their laws.

"I want categorically to state that I have never been involved in any way with illegal drug operations either locally or abroad, and I have never associated with any drug dealer," Greene, stressed in his statement."

President Jagdeo had indicated last year that Kerik's firm would have been contracted under the US$20M loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, which is to fund the citizens security programme. However, there were fierce criticisms of this move when it was revealed that Kerik was under investigation in the US for ethics violations. In the face of the criticisms Jagdeo said that he was aware of Kerik's problems but he was hiring the man for his competence and skills.

A New York Daily News article posted on August 4 had noted that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was probing Kerik's involvement in a charity that was secretly run out of the city Corrections Department when he served as its commissioner. Agents are looking into what happened to some US$1M in rebates - from cigarettes bought for sale to inmates - that was diverted to the accounts of the Corrections Foundation. The Daily News said that the rebates went into city coffers until Kerik became president of the foundation in 1995. When The Daily News had asked Kerik in early 2003 about irregularities in the foundation's financial records, he said he knew nothing about its finances and directed questions to his treasurer, Frederick Patrick, a deputy police commissioner. Patrick eventually pleaded guilty to pilfering US$137,733 from the foundation and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. He has since been released. News of the federal probe came a month after Kerik pleaded guilty to two misdemeanours. Kerik admitted that in 1999 he had accepted US$165,000 in free renovations to his Bronx apartment from a city contractor under investigation for alleged mob ties.

On another security-related matter, the President, also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, said yesterday that he was not pleased with the way things were going in relation to the investigation into the missing army AK-47s. According to the President one of the issues he had raised with the army was that a Major was now in charge of the investigation. The President said that a Colonel was the head of the Military Criminal Investigation Department when the investigation into the missing weapons was launched but now a Major has taken over. The President said that he expects the hierarchy of the army to treat the investigation seriously and as such someone with a higher rank should be heading the investigation. Jagdeo also told the press conference that the Guyana Defence Force had established a board of inquiry following the theft of the weapons and a report has since been submitted to the Defence Board. The Head of State said that in the coming weeks the Defence Board would study the report and take action where necessary. "I am still concerned however about the rate of recovery of the weapons and the manner in which the investigation is proceeding," the President said.

The 30 AK-47s have been missing since last year March.