River bandits raid Parika fish port

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Close to $2M in cash, outboard engines and equipment were yesterday stolen when five armed bandits operating from the Essequibo River broke locks and raided the Parika Fish Port Complex.

The robbers believed to be the same gang which terrorised a Lanaballi family on August 1 escaped in a speed boat in the direction of Hog Island in the Essequibo River.

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Police from Parika carried out searches at Hog Island and other parts along the river but up to press time no one had been arrested.

The fish complex, located a few metres away from the Parika Stelling, is being run by the Parika Co-op Society.

Chairman of the complex, Azeem Khan, shows what was left.

 

Chairman of the society Azeem Khan told Stabroek News that, around 1:30 yesterday morning the bandits attacked two security guards and bound them with duct tape before cutting off the locks on the building.

Khan related that the guards said they were at different posts when the men arrived at the wharf on a speed boat. Three of them entered the compound using a bridge which leads from the stelling to the complex. Once in the compound the three men walked past the guard as if they were just passing through. They did not go very far when one of them turned back and whipped out a handgun. By this time his two colleagues turned back also and the three confronted the guards and began asking them for money.

Stabroek News was told that the guards pleaded with the robbers saying that they did not have any money but while doing so two others joined the three and they also began terrorising the guards.

Guns were placed at the guards' heads and then they were bound and blindfolded with duct tape. Khan said the bandits then cut off all the locks on the complex.

Inside the building, they ransacked the drawers carting off some $200,000 in cash. Khan said the money comprised earnings from Sunday's market day at Parika. He said usually they would credit some of their goods and the money earned on Sunday was kept there to pay off suppliers early the next day. The bandits left around $1500. They also raided a store room from where they carried away several pieces of speed boat equipment, one gas pump, four gas bottles and a chainsaw.

Members of the society usually store their boat engines, seines and other equipment in special lockers at the complex. The bandits cut off the locks of those lockers and carried away three 48 Horse Power Yamaha engines. Khan said one of the engines cost $685,000. The robbers also stole a cordless phone, groceries and other articles.

When Stabroek News visited the complex yesterday police had already taken statements from the guards and were out checking for the suspects at Hog Island.

The fishing port has been in operation since 1991 and up to yesterday it had never suffered a major robbery.

Khan said more than 30 fishermen have shares in the complex.

He said while it was the first time the complex was robbed, members of the society from time to time have had their boats stripped of their engines. Police sources in the area said they have received information that the men are from Hog Island. A team of policemen and fishermen went into the area but did not find any trace of the bandits.

Five bandits on Emancipation Day carried out a similar attack at Scott's Fuel Station, owned by Looknarine Singh of Lanaballi, on the Essequibo River, The bandits on that occasion carted off over $1M and escaped with Singh's 75 HP engine speed boat. Police had made a few checks for the bandits in that matter but came up empty handed.