A trial to resolve a claim by businessman Ronald Khan that police wrongfully detained $54M in diamonds belonging to him, commenced yesterday at the High Court in Georgetown. Khan testified that the stones amounted to 430 carats, when weighed at the Mahdia Police Station.
The trial was ordered by Justice Fidela Corbin-Lincoln after the State refused to offer settlement to Khan who, among other things, is claiming that police confiscated and never returned his diamonds after investigations into a robbery which occurred at his mining camp at Ewang Creek in 1994.
During his evidence-in-chief, Khan who told the court that he began mining gold and diamond in the 1950s, said that he is one of the oldest living divers and prospectors in Guyana. He said that he started out in the Potaro area where he dived under the Kaieteur Falls.
According to Khan, during 1994 he operated a mining camp at Ewang Creek, Potaro River, which was attacked by gunmen and robbed. He recalled that the incident resulted in the death of his brother and one of his business partners. He also said that as a result of a beating inflicted on him by gunmen, he sustained injuries to his eyes and a gunshot wound to the neck. He is now visually impaired.
Khan recalled walking for about an hour through a trail covered in blood in an effort to report the robbery to the Mahdia Police Station via radio set. He added that police ranks met with him at the now Pamela Landing from where they transported him to the hospital.
The witness stated that the following day police ranks came to the hospital and took him to the Mahdia Police Station where he identified the two men who robbed his mining camp.
“I see the diamonds at the Mahdia Police Station. Mr. Wilson, a police officer, took the diamonds down to town. They were raw diamonds.” He disclosed that the diamonds were weighed by police ranks in his presence and amounted to 430 carats.
It was suggested to the witness by State Counsel Tiffany Castello that he was unable to see the diamonds while at the Station since he was not in a position to see properly. Khan appeared highly annoyed at the suggestion and responded, “I could have seen my diamonds. I know my diamonds.”
About two to three months after he was discharged from the hospital, he met with Retired Police Corporal Weslyn Fraser whom he asked about the diamonds and was told that they could not be found. Asked by his lawyer Nigel Hughes to explain how he knew the diamonds were worth $54M, Khan told the court that the diamonds were graded.
Queried about the grading process, he said that the diamonds are separated into four categories, good, reject, fine and industrial. “A good diamond is very clean; it has no carbon. The reject diamond has a lot of water stains and carbon. The industrial diamond is very dirty and the fine diamond is very, very small.”
According to him, he and two senior police ranks visited the Commissioner of Police Henry Greene, who informed them that an investigation into the diamonds was still ongoing.
VERIFIED BY GGMC
During cross examination by State Counsel Tiffany Castello, Khan revealed that back then the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) would verify if the stones were diamonds.
He said that while the entity was not responsible for valuing diamonds, a man who was employed there, was responsible for buying diamonds for the government. When questioned by his lawyer, Khan said that he never carried diamonds to GGMC, and was told that they are fake.
Testifying on behalf of the State were three former members of the Guyana Police Force, including Retired Inspector of Police Terrence Semple, who told the court that he does not think the stones were taken to an analyst for verification.
He stated, “I have never mined diamonds. I have no idea what they (diamonds) look like when they are found.”
He, however, revealed that he was among the police ranks who arrested the men accused of robbing Khan’s mining camp. The ex- cop when asked by State Counsel Castello to detail the processing system for accused persons, he said that once a person is arrested anything found on them to be of evidential value is lodged in the station’s property book, sealed and placed in a storeroom.
Retired Senior Superintendent of Police Courtney Ramsay said that at the time of the robbery he was the Commander of Police ‘F’ Division, which includes Mahdia. After making inquiries, Ramsay said he was told that the stones were not lodged at Police ‘E&F’ Division, which was at the time located in Georgetown.
According to this witness, he never did, neither was it ever requested of him to conduct an investigation into the Krazy Glue container containing the stones. He was also unable to say if the container and its contents were ever handed over to Khan.
Also testifying was retired Police Corporal Wesland Fraser, who when asked by State Counsel Castello, denied telling Khan that the diamonds could not be found. The Judge has reserved her ruling in this matter. She indicated that notices will be sent to the parties.
According to the writ filed on January 3, 2011 at the High Court in Georgetown and issued by his Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, Khan said that police “wrongfully detained” the diamonds after a robbery on his mining camp at Ewang Creek, during 1994.
Khan stated that after he checked and identified his diamonds, police ranks lodged them at the Mahdia Police Station. “Officers of the Guyana Police Force thereafter transported the diamonds to ‘E’ and ‘F’ Division in Georgetown,” the writ said.
Some time later when Khan requested the return of his diamonds, he was informed that the said diamonds were required as exhibits in the criminal trial of the persons charged with the armed robbery of his mining camp.
The writ said that after the passage of several years and the unsuccessful prosecution of the defendants who over time have either died or escaped, Khan’s lawyer wrote a letter to the then Commissioner of Police requesting the return of the merchandise.
“The Commissioner of Police acknowledged receipt of the said letter but failed to return (Khan’s) property,” the writ added.
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