Seizure of jewellery, detention of passenger triggers multi-million dollar lawsuit

Last Updated on Friday, 22 January 2016, 18:29 by Denis Chabrol

A man is suing the State for GYD$10 million because agents of the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) allegedly seized his jewellery at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and caused him to miss a New York-bound flight in violation of Guyana’s Constitution.

Through his lawyers, Richard Ramjit of Bissoon Street, Better Hope, East Coast Demerara, he said CANU agents attached to the Guyana Police Force falsely imprisoned him and confiscated his  gold and silver neckwear and a gold and silver wrist band as he was about to leave Guyana for New York on a Dynamic Airways flight.

In court papers seen by Demerara Waves, Ramjit said the CANU agents acted unlawful contrary to and in contravention of his fundamental right and freedom guaranteed him by Guyana’s constitution.

He is being represented by a team of lawyers- Anil Nandlall, Euclin Gomes, Sase Gunraj, Manoj Narayan  and Sasha Mahadeo. Nandlall, a former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, said the seizure of the Ramjit’s jewellery and his detention was an example of something he had warned against as far as the amendment of the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) was concerned to allow for the seizure of US$10,000 cash or its equivalent.

“It is only a matter of time before this misuse and abuse is extended right across this country and persons who have the value of USD$10,000 in cash and/or jewellery in the course of their legitimate business is exposed to the same being confiscated by an errant or overzealous law enforcement officer,” he said.

Ramjit’s lawyers said the seizure of the jewellery violates Ramjit’s fundamental right and freedom not to have his property compulsorily taken possession of without the prompt payment of adequate compensation as is guaranteed to him by Article 142 of the Constitution of Guyana.

Ramjit says his arrest and detention for more than four hours at the Cheddie Jagan International Airport, Timehri contravened his fundamental right to personal liberty which is guaranteed to him by Article 139 of the Constitution of Guyana and that such detention was unlawful and contrary to the his right to leave Guyana which is guaranteed to him by Article 148 of the Constitution of Guyana.

He also wants the High Court to find that his detention and and seizure of his property and the failure refusal and/or omission of the said officers of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit to extend the same treatment to other passengers who wore similar and larger quantity of jewellery  and who were on the same flight or on different flights at or about the same time at the Cheddie Jagan International Airport, Timehri, constitutes a violation of the protection against discriminatory treatment which is guaranteed to the Applicant by Article 149 of the Constitution of Guyana.

The Constitutional Motion was filed on the 21st day of January, 2016, and is fixed for hearing in the constitutional court on the 15th day of February, 2016.