Carrying bag packs or trolley bags loaded with local and foreign currency, they are often seen sitting or standing along Water, America, or Longden Street, Georgetown to trade their wads of money. They are mostly men referred to as “money-changers” who solicit passersby to do business with them. These men brave the elements of the weather, and even risk their lives, to provide for themselves and families.
Only last week Tuesday, money-changer Prince Alleyne was robbed, shot and killed by two gunmen outside of Ashmin’s Mall on High Street, Georgetown.
Alleyne, 57, of Lot 88 Public Road Grove, East Bank Demerara had just parked his car in front of Ashmin’s and was making his way to America Street to ply his trade when he was slain by gunmen who escaped on a CG motorcycle. Police are yet to make an arrest.
But despite the attack, these money couriers continue this risky business. When Kaieteur News visited the area on Saturday, a group of men were gathered. They were hard at work. Most of them expressed that they are fearful in light of the killing of their colleague.
One money-changer stated that although his life is under threat daily, it is his only source of income. He comes out as
early as 09:00hrs Monday through Saturday. According to him, he has witnessed armed robbers snatch and escape with persons’ chains, handbags and other valuables.
Another money-changer who has been in the business for over 10 years revealed that there is a specific gang of young men targeting them and individuals traversing the busy Stabroek Market area.
“They got a particular group of boys preying on people out here. They does be in and out prison fuh snatching people bags and so on. As soon as they get charge, couple mornings later they coming out on bail to make we lives miserable. This is risky business and I have my children to support so I have to come out here and earn a living.”
Another money-changer stated that while the job is risky, his earnings are enough to maintain his family. He disclosed that he has been in this profession for close to two decades and opined that there is no definite solution to stop crime. He however stated that recent moves by the relevant authorities to deploy police ranks to target areas that are hotspots for criminal activities could see a reduction.
“Them bandits just bareface. They got no regard for people lives. They don’t mean to go and make an honest living. You see when police shoot and kill them, then you hearing that they were church boy and this and that. But people don’t know what we go through here every day. They have to come and sit down out here and see for themselves. People does get rob in broad daylight,” a Stabroek Bazaar vendor stressed.
It was just last February that a gunman shot money-changer Shawn Nurse dead in America Street.
Nurse, known as ‘Fabulous,’ of Apartment 33 Shopping Plaza, South Ruimveldt, Georgetown, was shot in the left side of the face during a struggle with the gunman, who was attempting to relieve him of a large sum of foreign and local currency. The father of three died at the scene, while his killer fled with an undisclosed sum of cash and a quantity of gold jewellery. There have been arrests for this murder.
Last month, 49-year-old New Amsterdam money-changer Robin Busgith was shot and robbed of an undisclosed amount of cash by two bandits dressed in school uniforms. Reports indicate that one of the armed men was dressed as male secondary school students while the other like a woman. It was reported that Busgith who plies his trade at the New Amsterdam Market also had his car confiscated by the gunmen.
In another instance, a gunman escaped empty handed after a robbery attempt on a money-changer Vishwahnauth Nouwbat inside a Popeyes outlet at Water Street, Georgetown in November 2016. It was reported that Nouwbat was shot to the left abdomen after a gunman stormed the fast food restaurant at Water Street and demanded him to hand over a bag with money. When Nouwbat refused to comply, the gunman shot him. Nouwbat, who survived the attack, was at the time having a meal with his girlfriend.
On November 3, 2015, money-changers were sent scattering after they were attacked by gunmen on Honda CG motorcycles. It was reported that about ten gunmen discharged several rounds before forcing the money-changers to hand over cash and jewellery. Troy Abrams was later arrested and charged for robbery under-arms.
The following year, he was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to five years imprisonment by a City Magistrate. There are many reported instances of money-changers being killed, injured and robbed during various attacks around the country.
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