While stunning in their scale, the allegations levelled by police detective Dion Bascom in relation to the murder of Ricardo Fagundes outside of Palm Court on March 21st 2021 were not surprising.
Despite all of the assertions by those in authority that the crime would be solved, Fagundes’ murder – the staccato gunfire easily audible at the nearby Presidential residence – was destined for the tome of unsolved mysteries curated by the Guyana Police Force (GPF). The public has developed a keen sense of foreboding about certain types of murders stretching in contemporary history all the way back to that of Monica Reece in 1993 and particularly during the period after the 2002 Camp Street jail break when several different death squads ran amok.
From day one, the characteristics of the killing of Mr Fagundes put it in the genre of those that the police force could not solve because it had been compromised, had been instructed not to proceed or just was not up to the task.
Mr Fagundes was having drinks with a colleague in Palm Court when he received a call on his cell phone. Shortly after exiting Palm Court, there were several loud explosions and Mr Fagundes was later found lying in a pool of blood on the road. His body bore several gunshot wounds and he was believed to have been shot around 20 times. Sources told Stabroek News that the police recovered 30 rounds at the scene. Sixteen were from an AK-47 rifle – available to only certain classes of criminals – while the other fourteen were from a 9mm gun. The two killers then jumped back into their vehicle and were apparently driven to Swan Village on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway where the car was set afire.
Mr Fagundes’ killing was redolent of many over the years involving heavily armed gunmen who later melted away into the shadows never to be apprehended. What made it even murkier was the unrefuted claim by convicted drug trafficker, Roger Khan that he had been the real target of the attack and not his close associate Mr Fagundes.
It wouldn’t have been the first time that killers had botched a `hit’ and it also wasn’t uncustomary that the Police Force would appear to be clueless and more than 18 months later still unable to snare the killers and their mastermind. There is also the troubling fact that even though there was a high-voltage murder on Main Street the killers made it all the way to Swan – the police never reacted with any interest in intercepting the gunmen. There were several leads linked to the presumed getaway car but none of these appeared to have been energetically tracked down.
What has therefore been alleged by Mr Bascom cannot be ruled out i.e. that key persons in the force shut down the investigation of suspects. These allegations must be tested if the government and the police force truly subscribe to law and order.
This is where the will of the political directorate will be tested. There is no doubt, as has been said before in these columns, that PPP/C governments have been unwilling to cede control of policing to the hierarchy of a professional police force. It wants to be in charge of policing so that it could possibly intervene on major cases.
This inclination to control the force – plainly evident since 1992 – continues in the quest to have Mr Hicken become the new Commissioner of Police. The abject policing and runaway corruption that Guyanese have had to put up with for decades persists because there is a continuing unwillingness to professionalise the police force. Graft has eaten into the sinews of the force and the only way to rescue policing is to impose real – not platitudinous – zero tolerance for corruption.
Remediating this would require the attachment of professionals from recognised agencies such as Scotland Yard at the apex of the force to begin the process of restoring integrity and professionalism. Is President Ali prepared to do what is right for law and order in this country? Or is he prepared to risk the continued descent of the police force into appalling acts of misbehaviour? With the increasingly strengthening ties between Guyana and key Western countries, there would be no difficulty in mobilising assistance as the President has already sought to do in a variety of other areas. The PPP/C government has to decide whether it will permit professionalisation of the force or jeopardise the country’s security climate at a time of rapid economic growth and heightened risks across a broad range of sectors from money laundering and cybercrime to drug trafficking and gang activity.
What will become of Mr Bascom’s allegations? True to form, the police force tried to limit the damage. In a terse statement on Friday, it said: “The Guyana Police Force has taken note of a video which was circulating on social media which has now been deleted, and a subsequent post on Facebook by Dion Bascom. The Office of Professional Responsibility has since been instructed to commence an investigation”.
Given the gravity of the allegations made by Mr Bascom against the GPF, neither the Office of Professional Responsibility nor the Police Complaints Authority should be enlisted in any investigation. The probe of these allegations requires the shelter of impartiality which would be impossible under the present arrangements. It would be for President Ali to commission an independent, authoritative probe of these allegations.
In the meanwhile, Mr Bascom should be availed the fullest protection possible as he could face grave danger. He would be considered to be a whistleblower and must be accorded that status by the authorities. The Protected Disclosures Act of 2018 – which addresses whistleblowing – was passed on January 10th 2018 with full participation by the then opposition PPP/C. The Protected Disclosures Commission which was envisaged under the Act was never established by the Granger administration but the existence of the law compels this government to take cognisance of it in addressing Mr Bascom’s claims.
If the matters pertain to national security – as could be the case here – the disclosures could be made to the Minister of Home Affairs or to the President. The Act also makes provision for the protection of whistleblowers like Mr Bascom.
With two years of its term having elapsed, it is time that the Ali administration begins seriously addressing the corruption in the force and the public’s lack of confidence in it. The allegations by Mr Bascom could mark the beginning of this process.
Breaking News: Sergeant Bascom charged, met U.S investigators and shared vital information.
Today Detective Sergeant Dion Bascom was charged in the Georgetown Magistrate Court for “Using a Computer System to humiliate a person contrary to section 19(5)(a) of the Cyber Crime Act, No. 16 of 2018.” According to the Particulars of Offense.
i. On Saturday 13th August, 2022, at Eve Leary, Georgetown, Bascom used computer system to transmit electronic data with intent to humiliate, harass, or cause substantial distress to Superintendent Mitchell Caesar; and ii On Friday 19th August, 2022, at Hadfield Street, Georgetown, Bascom used a computer system to transmit electronic data with intent to humiliate, harass, or cause substantial distress to Superintendent Chabinauth Singh. The complainant is Richard Frank, Inspector of Police.
Bascom was released on $300,000.00 bail. He is being represented by attorneys-at-law Nigel Hughes, Khemraj Ramjattan, who was former Minister of Public Security, and Narissa Leander.
On Monday evening Bascom spoke with a team of United States (U.S) security investigators. In conversations that lasted more than five hours the embattled sergeant provided investigators with detailed information pertaining to his social media recording, the statement he gave the police last February, WhatsApp messages, screenshots, and other information the public is not privy to. It would appear the U.S has an interest in the probe.
Bascom, in a shared press conference with Hughes, on 19th August, said he stands by statements he made in the recordings.
Last Friday the Ministry of Home Affairs released a statement which said the Regional Security Service (RSS), having conducted an inquiry, found no evidence of corrupt practice or any attempt to cover up Ricardo Fagundes aka Paper Short murder case.
Fagundes was killed in a hail of bullets in front of Palm Court nightclub, Georgetown, on 21st March, 2021. Bascom, in a damning social recording on social media, accused senior members of the Guyana Police Force of being corrupt and implicated Superintendent Mitchell Caesar in a cover up with city businessman, Nazruddin Mohamed, in the killing of Fagundes. Both have denied the allegations and the businessman has since filed a $200 million defamation lawsuit against Bascom.
Issuing a statement shortly after the ministry’s release, Bascom pointed out among other things that, “First thing how can the RSS do any kind of investigation without interviewing me, the person that is speaking out about this cover-up?; How can the RSS say that the bribery allegations is hear-say without interviewing me to find out where I get that information from and whether the person that told me had proof of same?”
The public is asking the ministry to release the RSS Report.
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