Last Updated on Thursday, 25 August 2016, 11:14 by Denis Chabrol
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has claimed that the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) has received campaign financing from former Health Minister, Dr. Noel Blackman’s illegal distribution of painkillers in the United States (US), but a top party official has bluntly denied the accusation.
“How much of the drug money that Mr. Blackman was involved in…went into the APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) campaign because he was a big donor to APNU?,” Jagdeo queried at a news conference. The PNCR is the largest partner in APNU which is in government along with the Alliance For Change (AFC).
Jagdeo leveled the accusation on Wednesday, August 24, 2016- the same day that Blackman pleaded guilty to the offence of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, a controlled substance. He remains in jail pending sentencing on January 6, 2017. Back on February 7, 2016, federal agents ordered a Guyana-bound plane, which was taxiing at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, to return and Blackman and his baggage including more than US$30,000 were taken off.
After describing Jagdeo’s accusation as “laughable,” PNCR General Secretary, Oscar Clarke said Dr. Blackman has not been associated with the PNCR for the longest while dating back to when the late Desmond Hoyte was President and party leader.
Clarke also said he was certain that Dr. Blackman had not provided financing to the PNCR’s campaign activities. “I would strongly deny that. I would personally strongly deny that because I have no knowledge of such thing. I would deny it outright,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
The privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper reports that Homeland Security Investigators and the US Drug Enforcement Administration said Blackman had issued approximately 2,487 prescriptions for more than 365,000 oxycodone pills last year, a big jump from the 21, 810 and 3,810 of oxycodone pills that he prescribed in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Blackman reportedly told investigators that it was possible that some of his patients were addicted to oxycodone; that he charged around US$300 to see patients at this pain management clinic and that he typically saw approximately 100 patients per day which he estimated at one patient every six minutes.
Asked to back up his position that the former Health Minister had not been associated with the PNCR for a long time, but had been selected to be Chairman of the Board of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, Clarke said he was unaware how he was selected as Chairman. “It has nothing to with me and nothing to do with the PNC as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Clarke said his party was still in favour of campaign financing legislation even if it means the disclosure of donors. “That’s part of the risk that you have to take, but we agree with it…As a matter of fact, it will lend to transparency,” said Clarke, a long-serving member and General Secretary of the PNCR.
Jagdeo also used the opportunity to criticize government for hiring drug convict and deportee, Lear Goring, in the Debt Management department at the wholly state-owned Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI).
The Opposition Leader recalled that while his People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) was in office and he was President, the then opposition PNCR had consistently sought to link him and his party to drug traffickers. “Everything used to be Jagdeo friend in the past whether I knew the people or not. It has to be our friends and the PPP was doing this,” he said.
Evidence had been led in a United States court that then Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy had given government authorization to a United Kingdom-based company for the purchase of sophisticated triangulation and mobile call interception equipment. A Guyana Defence Force (GDF) patrol had arrested now convicted drug lord Roger Khan, who is in a United States jail, and several of his cohorts with the equipment and guns at the height of a violent crime spree by heavily armed gangs that had been based in the East Coast Demerara village of Buxton.
Prior to being snatched by American federal agents in Trinidad and taken to New York to face trial for cocaine trafficking, Khan had stated that he had helped prevent the PPPC-government from being toppled.