Possible “collusion” between police and illegal Brazilian aircraft operators

Last Updated on Thursday, 7 September 2017, 13:09 by Denis Chabrol

The illegal aircraft that was found on an illegal airstrip in North Rupununi.

Government is probing suspected collusion between police and persons connected to the illegal Brazilian registered aircraft that landed in southern Guyana last month, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said.

“There is some information that is available to us which is suggesting a certain level of collusion and that information we take very seriously and it will inform the way in which we deal with the actual deployment of ranks in these areas,” he said.

He declined to comment on reports that the persons, who exited the plane, allegedly paid police and then fled the scene without trace. Guyana Defence Force soldiers were subsequently called in to help secure the Beechcraft Kingair plane.

Unofficially, sources said as much as GYD$10 million might have been involved in the transaction. “I am not sure about ‘paid.’ I understand there was some collusion. That’s what I heard,” he said.

Harmon declined to divulge details, instead preferring to await the outcome of the probe, analysis and weighting of the information before conclusions are made.

Well-placed sources in the security sector said as much as eight persons were aboard the plane instead of three that have been reported in official Guyana government statements. Police believed that the occupants were Brazilians and Colombians, based on passports and identification cards that were found aboard the plane.  The International Police Organisation (InterPol) has been asked to help with the probe.

Interior Divisional Commander, Senior Superintendent Ravindradat Budhram is already on record as disputing any collusion between police and the occupants of the plane. Asked why police did not open fire on the persons who ran out of the plane and fled, he said lawmen had to be cautious about shooting at a plane that might have been on distress and had made a legitimate emergency landing.

A contractor and a businessman, who are both based in Lethem, were two weeks ago taken to the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters of the Guyana Police Force for further questioning and released. A heavy duty piece of equipment believed to have been used in constructing the illegal airstrip had been seized by police and taken to the Lethem Police Station.

No one has come forward since to claim the Brazilian registered plane that bears authentic registration markings, PR-IMG.

Drones for air surveillance

The Minister of State, meanwhile, confirmed that the Guyana Defence Force would soon be equipped with drones to help monitor Guyana’s air space.

He said provision would be made in the 2018 National Budget to purchase the drones which would provide “more accurate readings” and  compared to the commercial craft.

Harmon ruled out the use of blimps, although those are less costlier than drones and are in greater use even by larger countries such as the United States. He said the drones would allow the security forces to “cover greater ground which reduced the number of troops or personnel that you may have to use on the ground.”

“It also gives you coverage of areas that are inaccessible otherwise and so the use of drones, I can say ‘yes’ we are actively considering and we have some proposals that have been made to us,” he said.

The Minister of State said a number of companies were expected to dispatch representatives to Guyana to outline their quality and type of drones that they were offering.