The Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) on Thursday commissioned its spanking new headquarters on Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown.
Funded by the Government of Guyana, the building cost approximately $42 million and is expected to increase the workforce and work facilities of CANU.
CANU has been battling for proper working facilities since 2017, deputy head Lesley Ramlall said on Thursday. The construction of this new three-storey building commenced in April 2018 and was completed early this year.
While CANU is thankful for the new building, there are no parking facilities. The new facility was built on the area which previously served as the parking lot. The workers now park on the roadside.
The Deputy Head said that CANU continues to remain the primary agency fighting against narcotics since its establishment in 1994; however, the unit has over the years experienced a number of challenges, one of which was inadequate office space.
He said CANU is now able to adequately cater for all staff members based at the headquarters in a much more conducive environment.
“For those officers deployed to CJIA there was no accommodation for them to rest or have a shower if there was an extended waiting period between flights.
“More importantly, there was a challenge securing office space and accommodation to operationalize the Unit’s out of town mandate in some regions,” Ramlall said.
In 2018 a house was built for officers at Timehri, and the Unit was also able to rent buildings in Regions Two, Six and Nine which allowed for operational presence in those regions.
“CANU is now able to deploy officers for any operation within these areas at short notices,” Ramlall said.
There has been additional training, tools and equipment for officers inclusive of a deployment box. These enable more professional operations and has increased the Unit’s investigative capabilities.
According to the Deputy Head, the funding the unit has received from the Government over the last two years is being utilized in the most efficient manner.
“The investigations department has been boosted with an increase number of officers including two senior investigators and an additional attorney-at-law,” Ramlall said.
This has afforded CANU to work closely with the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) and other agencies in money laundering investigations.
The Deputy Head said eight matters were handed over to SOCU from 2017 to date for money laundering.
The Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said while Government will continue to fund CANU, it is expected that the unit will see more successful prosecutions in the court.
“Especially those at the very upper level involved in this trade – that’s where we want the prosecutions to come from.
“The little guy in the street – I am very concerned about him going to spend a year in jail or three years for a spliff.”
The Minister said there is legislation in Parliament to deal specifically with this issue. CANU has an objective that by 2022, Guyana will not be a transhipment point for narcotics and the Minister said he hopes that this becomes a reality.
“This drug traffic trade has as its primary motivation, profit. All the literature that I have read have indicated that is where it is and if we can do the necessary things to cut the profit out of the trade – catching them, destroying the cultivation fields, eradicating where they planting the marijuana.”
The Public Security Minister congratulated CANU on the new headquarters and urged that the staff maintain it.