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|The Guyana Police Force on Wednesday held a press conference to debunk allegations made by detective sergeant Dion Bascom in a social media post that has since been removed.
In the post, the sergeant accused Superintendent Mitchell Caesar of engaging in unprofessional conduct in carrying out an investigation into the death of Ricardo Fagundes aka ‘Paper Shorts’ and accepting a $ 30 million bribe to cover up the case. Fagundes was killed in a hail of bullets after leaving the Palm Court night club on the night of March 21, 2021.
Businessman Azruddin Mohamed is accused by the sergeant of having a role in Fagundes’ death. Bascom, in that recording, also accused Assistant Commissioner of Police, Wendell Blanhum, head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of unprofessionalism.
The Police, using power point presentation, sought to debunk Bascom’s claims but notedly did not address the $30 million bribe allegation or mentioned whether Bascom’s right to natural justice, i.e., given the right to be heard, was considered necessary to the investigation.
Presiding over the conference were acting Commissioner of Police, Clifton Hicken, and the Crime Chief who concluded the claims made by Bascom, based on their investigation, are false and concocted information borne out of malice for members of the Force, and all stem from his arrest made by Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU).
Bascom was arrested two Mondays ago in a house in Norton Street, Georgetown that was raided by CANU who said they found three pounds of cocaine worth $1.5 million. He was released without being charged and accused the Police of wanting to frame him. The arrest apparently led to the social media post.
Detective Sergeant Dion Bascom
But retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Clinton Conway, has a different view to the Police’s response to Bascom’s allegations. In conversation with Village Voice, the retired Assistant Commissioner said the Police should not be investigating themselves on this matter. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which is a department of the Force and reportedly conducted the investigation, is headed by a person the rank of Deputy Superintendent, whilst the allegations are made against a Superintendent and Assistant Commissioner. In the Force a junior rank cannot question a senior rank and the OPR which was set up to be headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police is no longer so headed, said Conway.
He is calling for an inquiry from an international body to investigate allegations made by Bascom and a separate body to investigate Fagunes murder. The Police said they have international personnel who are helping them with investigating the murder. But Conway poured cold water on the Force’s present capacity and integrity in conducting the investigations. The retired Assistant Commissioner of Police said there is no confidence in OPR, Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and the police, who are all perceived as corrupt.
Zeroing in on Bascom, who was discredited at the press conference, Conway said, even if the sergeant is not a paragon of virtue, what he said could be truthful and he should have been given a hearing, but the police are running away from this. “They don’t want to talk to Bascom.”
Drawing on the case of police Francesco Vincent Serpico, in the New York Police Department (NYPD), who screamed on (whistle blow) his fellow colleagues, Conway said it is an important lesson to pay heed to because a parallel could be drawn in the Bascom matter. In that case, he recalled, Serpico said, “When questioning me they were trying to prove what I was saying is untrue rather than taking an attitude that allows me to help them in the investigation.”
Serpico’s advice to the NYPD created an atmosphere where corrupt officers fear honest officers, and not the other way around, where honest officers fear corrupt officers, said Conway. “That is the state the Guyana Police Force finds itself in today.”