CANU says wrongfully named in gold seizure, detention of NY-bound passenger

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 January 2016, 8:54 by Denis Chabrol

The Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) Friday night refuted claims in a High Court action filed by an outgoing Guyanese passenger to New York that its agents seized jewellery and detained him for four hours resulting in him missing his flight.

CANU Head, James Singh said none of his anti-drug agents was involved in the seizure of jewellery from Richard Ramjit at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport on January 19, 2016. “This has nothing to do with CANU. This is a police matter, not my unit. We had nothing to do with it,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

He said the law enforcement agent, Travis Leitch, is instead a member of the Guyana Police Force’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID). “I don’t have anybody by the name of Leitch working at my agency. Leitch is police,” he said. “In no way was CANU involved in this matter nor did any CANU rank seize any jewellery, detain any individual or anything like that whatsoever,” said Singh.

“CANU would like to state that the officers who identified themselves as CANU officers, are not members the unit, nor were they ever members of the unit. Furthermore, no CANU Officer was involved in that operation at any time. CANU officers on duty are uniformed and display their issued Identification card with their names,” he said.

But the passenger’s lawyer, Anil Nandlall, insisted that the agent who conducted the seizure is a CANU officer.

“A CANU officer seized the man’s thing and handed it over to SOCU (Special Organised Crime Unit). We now understand that the jewellery is kept at SOCU so I don’t know what a CANU officer was doing checking for smuggled gold or trying to enforce the AML/CFT (Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism) Act,” he said. Nandlall said Ramjit asked the agent his name and he told him that he was Leitch and that he was a CANU officer, a portfolio he confirmed with CID.

Demerara Waves Online News was told that the jewellery was worth US$15,000, above the US$10,000 ceiling at which police and customs could seize and probe under Guyana’s revised financial crimes law.

Nandlall said Leitch took his client on the CJIA tarmac and used a sniffer dog to sniff his client.

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.