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Airport US$2300 theft complaint under police probe

Airport Chief Executive Officer Ramesh Ghir says the allegation made by an outgoing passenger that US$2300 was stolen from her at the airport is in the hands of the Guyana Police Force's Crimi-nal Investigation Department.

Annie Bacchus in a letter to Stabroek News which was carried in the May 1 edition said she discovered the money missing after she had cleared all the security checkpoints and was already on board a Caribbean Airlines flight destined to Miami.

When contacted by this newspaper yesterday Ghir said once the airport's management learnt of the incident it met with both the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and Secure Innovations and Concepts, whose personnel, the woman said had searched her, to ascertain what occurred.

However he said the airport's management is not controlling the investigation.

In her letter Bacchus said on the morning of April 28, 2007, after her shoulder bag was scanned by a CANU officer, whose name she provided, the officer enquired about the money she had in her possession which was US$9683.

The woman said she had 44 US$100 bills but after counting the money the officer told her that only 43 were there.

And at boarding time an officer from the security company checked her bag placing both hands in it.

"I told her I want to hold my money but she said the other passengers will see it. I told her that is not a problem for me since I am not doing anything illegal," Bacchus said in the letter.

Bacchus said too that the woman then gave her a camera from her bag and told her to take it off and continued delving further into her bag.

She noted that she became disoriented and after her bag was returned to her the security official left the area immediately with a jacket.

"I became suspicious of her actions but the airline was boarding so I checked the money as soon as I got seated only to discover that an additional 22 US $100 bills were missing." the letter continued.

The woman said too that she brought this to the attention of the flight attendant who took her back to the terminal to investigate the matter.

According to Bacchus the supervisor of the security company asked the officer where she went and the officer said she went to the washroom, but from her observation the officer was no longer wearing the jacket and her money was not recovered.

"I had an option to report the matter to the Timehri Police Station or board the flight and I went for the latter," she said.

The other side

Stabroek News made contact with the superiors of both persons against whom the allegations were made. CANU has reserved comment on the matter. Acting CANU head Orvil Nedd told this newspaper that the incident is currently being investigated by the police and said too that CANU was not investigating the matter.

However, Harold Hopkinson, CEO and owner of Secure Innovations and Concepts said the company conducted its private investigation which showed that there was no sign that his employee had stolen the woman's money.

Further, Hopkinson said those investigations had revealed too that the woman's money was checked and counted by a CANU officer before she was checked by his personnel, and at which point she had discovered one of the hundred dollar bills missing.

He told Stabroek News that when the alarm was raised he gave instructions for his employee, who was identified by the outgoing passenger, to be searched.

"So she was searched and by a CANU officer as well and all the other officers at the gate were searched," Hopkinson said.

According to Hopkinson, even as workers were about to leave at the end of the shift for that day he requested that all of them return to the office where a search was conducted on each of them but nothing was found.

He said even the washroom which the officer had visited was searched, but again nothing was found.

Hopkinson said too that he has since reviewed the video tape of operations for that day and found no suspicious behaviour by the young woman who searched Bacchus's bag.

He said the camera faced the officer and there was no sign that the officer could have taken the money unless the woman "fell asleep while her bag was being searched."

"There is no way that one could have taken that money from her from a set of 100 US dollar bills wrapped in rubber band while she was wide awake," Hopkinson asserted adding that the video showed clearly the woman watching attentively as her bag was being searched.

"It was about 15 minutes after she went on the plane she came back with an airhostess and we learnt that some person on the plane helped her count her money and there's a possibility it could have gone missing at that point as well," he said.

The man said he is satisfied with his investigations and found nothing incriminating against his staff.

Hopkinson's Secure Inno-vations and Concepts has been running security at the airport since 2000 and in his opinion while it was the smallest company it is the one with the highest reputation and has contracts with a number of airlines.

Bacchus in her letter to this newspaper said she and her husband were convinced that when they checked the money before she left home they had done so correctly but after the CANU officer made the count she had to accept that it was 43 100 US dollar bills.

A source at the Timehri airport however has informed Stabroek News that money going missing from travellers' hand luggage after they were searched was nothing news but this was the most he had heard of in a long time.

"People know that this thing does happen but like the powers are not prepared to take the required action against these people," the source said.

'People does really get lick up here but sometimes they find out too late and it really don't mek sense because the security people who doing the checks, they collude with one another and take people's money," he added.

Stabroek News understands that the police are awaiting the woman's return to Guyana to pursue investigations since the original report to the police station was made on her behalf by her husband.