By Richard Millington, Research Assistant – George Washington University Law School
Details are emerging about the contempt US government officials developed for Guyana’s President, Bharrat Jagdeo. Apart from his obvious criminal associations, officials were incensed by Jagdeo’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government’s 2006 audacious attempt to use US law enforcement to emasculate the role of then Police Commissioner, Winston Felix. “They aggressively employed draconian measures to undermine Mr. Felix to protect their criminal axis and sought our assistance to enable that subversion,” a US diplomat contends.
Jagdeo’s alleged criminal associations are so far-reaching and alarming that it motivated a senior official of the Colin Powell State Department (DOS) to regard him as a “Mafia” Head of State. Then US Ambassador to Guyana, Ronald Bullen, in a 2006 cable to DOS stated that Guyana was believed to be “a narco-state” and that “If Guyana is a narco-state, then Khan is its leader” – An indication that Jagdeo was compromised and had surrendered governance of the country to Khan’s criminal enterprise.
Felix drew the ire of Jagdeo over his aggressive pursuit of drug lords connected to Jagdeo’s ruling PPP, including now convicted criminal and accused murderer Roger Khan. Currently serving a 15 year sentence in the US for exporting and distributing narcotics in the US, Khan was Jagdeo’s ally and financier of the PPP. The Guyanese President has condemned his arrested in Surinam and extradited to the US, via Trinidad and Tobago, as “another US “rendition.”
Jagdeo has offered facile denials of any association with Khan, which strain credulity. There is at least one tape, reportedly in the possession of US officials, which purportedly shows him meeting Khan. Moreover, a Guyanese businessman informed US officials that on one occasion when he had an appointment with Jagdeo at Guyana’s Presidential Complex, he was made to wait for hours. He added that he was flabbergasted and got a stomach ache when he saw Jagdeo emerged from his office with Roger Khan. The sight of the President meeting with the country’s most notorious criminal incensed him and forced him to relocate from Guyana.
Around 1999, Khan, at the urging of some members of Jagdeo’s regime, form a gang nicked-named the “phantom death squad.” The phantom gang unleashed a reign of terror on the Guyanese nation. It received governmental support through Jagdeo’s then Minister of national security Ronald Gajraj. Telephone records show Gajraj was in constant communication with gang leaders before and after major murders and executions. It was later discovered that Gajraj was the co-leader of the gang.
The phantom gang committed over four hundred murders for hire and executions of mostly young African Guyanese men. It is also responsible for hundreds of kidnappings, including that of a US diplomat. The gang also assassinated then PPP Agriculture Minister Sash Shaw as well as anti-PPP journalist Ronald Weddell. Shaw was locked in a bitter skirmish with Khan when he was killed. Waddell, a television talk show host, believed Jagdeo governed by ethnic supremacy and was unrelentingly critical of the PPP’s association with Khan. Jagdeo had also accused him of forming an alliance with Buxtonans who were resistant to the PPP government.
The melee between Khan and Shaw stemmed from Shaw’s abrupt cancellation of a land deal that was signed between Khan and corrupt PPP appointees on the Forestry Commission, which fell within Shaw’s ministerial portfolio. The deal awarded a large concession of lands to a company owned by Roger Khan, much to the chagrin of the US government. The US had harshly condemned the deal in its international Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
A Canadian citizen, Shaw was himself no stranger to crime; having been convicted of passport fraud in Canada in the 1980s. He, his security guard and two siblings were slaughtered when heavily armed members of Khan’s gang invaded his La Bonne Intention home during a family dinner and opened fire with machine guns. President Jagdeo rejected an offer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to assist the Guyana Police with the investigation. Shaw’s family has accused Jagdeo of complicity in his killing. Some members have defected to the opposition Alliance For Change party while his wife has reportedly been rewarded with a diplomatic posting ostensibly to quell further family demands for a commission of enquiry.
Ronald Waddell was gunned down as he left his home in suburban Georgetown on January 30, 2006. During Khan’s trial in a New York federal court, Selwyn Vaughn – a former associate of Khan turned DEA and FBI informant, testified under oath that Roger Khan ordered Waddell’s execution. Vaughn testified that Khan sent him to be the lookout man to see when Waddell arrived home, where he kept surveillance. He said he observed Waddell arrive home, leave his car idling in the driveway and go into his residence. He called and informed Khan that Waddell had arrived home.
According to the witness, shortly after his call to Khan, he saw four other named phantom gang members, all former Guyana Police officers, arrive in a Burgundy Toyota car, license number AT 192. He said all four gang members were armed with automatic weapons and opened fire on Waddell as he reentered his vehicle. He testified that after the shooting he and the four murderers rejoined Khan at his Blue Iguana nightclub.
According to Vaughn, Khan, while in their presence, telephoned Guyana’s Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and
informed him that Waddell had been shot and had been taken to the government-owned Public Hospital Georgetown (PHG). Khan then instructed Ramsammy to order emergency room doctors at the hospital to let Waddell die. No one was ever arrested for Waddell’s murder.
It was also established in court that Ramsammy had, on behalf of the Guyana government, written a Florida company – “The Spy Shop” advising that the government of Guyana had granted approval for Khan to purchase and high-tech surveillance equipment for importation to Guyana. Khan imported the equipment which he used to intercept his targets’ cell phone calls and to track their location before executing them.
In March 2006, then Police Commissioner Winston Felix, and Army Chief of Staff Edward Collins, directed a joint services operation which targeted Khan. The Operation comprised officers from the criminal investigations division and tactical services unit (a SWAT team) of the Police Force. They were supported by members of the Defense Force intelligence unit. Several of Khan’s business establishments were raided, including the “Blue Iguana,” from which millions of dollars, believed to be drug proceeds, were recovered.
Khan eventually escaped as he had by that time infiltrated the Police Force and was tipped off. It is believed that Henry Green, Felix’s deputy at the time and current Police Commissioner enjoyed a friendship with Khan. The US subsequently abruptly revoked Green’s US visa, ostensibly because of his criminal associations with drug lords.
The operation against Khan was conducted without the knowledge of President Jagdeo and national security minister, Gail Teixeira, “for fear it would have been compromised,” a confidential Police source told CAF Blog. The source said that law enforcement officials had information that Khan had a personal relationship with Jagdeo. Following the raid Khan threatened to “bring down” Jagdeo and his government if they didn’t get Felix “off his back.” The source said that Khan then instructed Jagdeo to get rid of Felix.”
Within days of the operation, Khan, who had gone into hiding, published a fullpage ad in the Stabroek newspaper boasting of being head of the “phantom gang” and claimed he was “working in close association with the Jagdeo government to “fight crime.” Khan also announced that he had bugged Commissioner Felix’s telephone presumably using the surveillance computers which he had imported, and would release a recording with Felix. In a move that suggested that he was in collaboration with the criminal to dismantle the country’s security infrastructure and defeat Felix, Jagdeo, as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, ordered Army Chief of Staff Edward Collins to disband the military intelligence unit.
The criminal enterprise of Guyana was now out to get Felix. The following day, Khan, seemingly working in partnership with Jagdeo and his government, released a CD containing an alleged recording of a conversation between Felix and opposition PNCR Member of parliament and Attorney at law Basil Williams. The alleged conversation was doctored to give the impression that Felix was suggesting that a woman who was connected to Guyana’s opposition leader and who had allegedly committed grand larceny could be planted with drugs at the airport as she attempted to leave Guyana. Both Williams and Felix immediately challenged the source and authenticity of the recording and dismissed it as being bogus.
It was here that President Jagdeo tipped his hand. Instead of condemning the bugging of the Police Commissioner’s
telephone as a dastardly breach of national security and ordering an investigation, Jagdeo publicly backed the criminal, claiming that if the voice was indeed that of Felix, then Felix had committed a crime.
Jagdeo’s comments outraged Felix, who questioned whether persons in the government were complicit with the wiretap of his telephone. Felix’s reported comments led to a confrontational meeting with Jagdeo on March 21, 2006. The President purportedly demanded that Felix retract statements implying Government of Guyana’s complicity with the wiretap and suggested he take an early retirement, but the Commissioner, also an Attorney, flatly refused.
Disgraced former National Security Minister Ronald Gajraj
As the sordid episode unfolded, then national security minister, Gail Teixeira, who had just inherited the portfolio from her disgraced predecessor Ronald Gajraj, tried desperately to salvage her government’s criminal image by ingratiating herself to western diplomats, specifically to win the confidence of the American, British and Canadian governments – referred to as the ABC countries. She attained measured success by keeping them apprised of modest crime fighting efforts and by leaking details of internal PPP wrangling to then Charge D’Affaires of the US Embassy, Michael Thomas.
Thomas dispatched several cables to the US State Department detailing his conversations with Teixeira. One stated that Teixeira seemed to be fighting a “lonely, uphill battle in the government against fraud and corruption,” and hinted of Teixeira’s vain confirmation of a disturbingly convenient marriage of interests between Jagdeo and Khan. Another said that at a meeting with ABC Ambassadors on March 20, 2006 she agreed that the government must give consideration to the dubious origins of the Felix recording and likelihood that it had been doctored..
Leaked US government cables indicate that Teixeira complained to the diplomats that if Felix were to be removed his apparent successor would have been next in line and current Commissioner Henry Green, who would be bad for the country because, as they has previously discussed, Green was corrupt and had allegedly been benefiting financially from Roger Khan. Teixeira, Thomas said, then asked the Ambassadors to leak this information to the press, as well as the fact that it was Khan who had bugged Felix’s phone.
A State Department source said that Teixeira, acting on the direction of President Bharrat Jagdeo, requested the assistance of the United States government, through the FBI, to determine if the “voice in the Khan recording was that of Police Commissioner Winston Felix.” The source added that Teixeira provided a CD with the alleged recording and another recording with a speech Felix had delivered to his officers for FBI analysis.
The FBI summarily rejected the government of Guyana (GoG) request for a voice analysis, indicating that neither of the two tape recordings provided were original copies and thus, their authenticity was dubious. A US official pointed out that even if the tapes were original copies, the FBI would not have proceded with the analysis because they were fully aware that “President Jagdeo was attempting to use the US to legitimize his attempts to implicate the Police Commissioner who was attempting to bring down one of Jagdeo’s alleged criminal associates.”
By the time GoG request got to the FBI, it had already come under a barrage of withering attacks from Rickford Burke, the influential President of the New York based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID). Burke dispatched a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, through New York Governor George Pataki, detailing Jagdeo’s alleged criminal association with Khan and called on the Bush administration to distance itself from Jagdeo who he claimed was harboring Khan – a fugitive from US law. At the time, the CGID was leading an international campaign against Jagdeo’s government for its false imprisonment of journalist Mark Benschop on fabricated treason charges, and to expose Jagdeo’s apparent complicity with the Guyana’s violent criminal enterprise.
Burke told CAF Blog that in 2005 he and New York State Senator, John Sampson, led a CGID delegation to the State Department to discuss the situation in Guyana, including Jagdeo and Gajraj’s criminal associations. He said that the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Caribbean affairs in the Western Hemisphere Division advised the delegation that the US government had severed all communication with Gajraj and was engaging Felix directly on law enforcement and national security matters. He said that they were assured that security assistance and cooperation with GoG had been pulled from the Ministry of National Security and channeled directly to the Police Force.
Pressure from CGID and the political opposition in Guyana forced the US government to issue a statement on April 12,
2005, condemning Gajraj’s reappointment following the release of the findings of an inquiry into extra-judicial killings. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said in the statement that “the United States is concerned by the Government of Guyana’s decision to reinstate former Home Minister Ronald Gajraj…. A Guyanese commission of inquiry looking into his links to the so-called ‘phantom death squad‘ has found serious procedural irregularities in his official conduct related to his involvement with individuals who allegedly carried out extra-judicial killings…. We believe significant questions remain unanswered regarding his involvement in serious criminal activities…” The US position forced Gajraj to resign but Jagdeo immediately appointed him as ambassador to India and whisked him out of Guyana under cover of diplomatic immunity. Jagdeo then appointed Teixeira to replace him.
Teixeira, who had previously served as Health as well as Youth and Culture Minister, was reassigned to the National Security ministry by Jagdeo under the guise that she would clean-up Gajraj’s mess. She had the rug pulled from under her as it became obvious that she was intellectually moribund and out of her depth. Ultimately she was removed from the cabinet and made a presidential advisor on governance.
Referring to Teixeira’s recent comments that Felix had dropped the ball on crime because he was obsessed with Roger Khan, Burke said those comments reflected her pedestrian thinking and a stunning inability to grasp the facts and causations of the crime spree. “It was Roger Khan and his gang that committed 90% of the crimes, so who else should the police have been targeting, if not the rats in the sewage system?” Burke questioned.
“It is obvious that this woman lacked the intellectual heft to manage the country’s national security portfolio. Her demotion to a so-called presidential advisor position was justifiable and in the best interest of the country,” Burke said. He observed that her most useful purpose during her tenure was that of a gossip mill for western diplomats who gleaned from her a clear insight into PPP corruption and complicity with criminals.
In May of 2010 Teixeira blatantly lied to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Responding to a question from Canadian Ambassador Jeffrey Heaton on a fifteen year-old school, Twyon Thomas, whose genitals had been burnt by Guyana Police while they tortured him, Teixeira told the council that the government had compensated the child and provided him with counseling and medical treatment, and had brought the perpetrators to justice – a blatant falsehood.
As the November 2011 elections approach, Guyanese are required to take stock of the myriad of abysmal failures of governance the PPP regime under Jagdeo. It must also consider the blatant associations with the criminal enterprise and the criminally influenced leadership Jagdeo, Gajraj, Green, Texeira and others; including the bungling intellectually challenged Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, whose US visa has also been revoked.
The total failure of the government in its responsibility to provide security to the Guyanese citizens is consistent with the mediocrity emanating from the minimal ethics and competence of the tragicomic and embarrassing triumvirate of Jagdeo, Teixeira and Rohee. Will the Guyanese people vote to dispatch the PPP mafia, who sold out the country’s security apparatus to criminals, to the halls of justice? The verdict comes on November 28!