Guyana's president says former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who U.S. authorities are reportedly investigating for possible financial improprieties, will oversee reforms to the violence-wracked country's police force.
President Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters late Tuesday that Kerik will "definitely" lead an overhaul of the South American country's police department despite recent criticism over the move.
Kerik would work with former law enforcers from England and Scotland to upgrade Guyana's ability to battle drug traffickers, who are increasingly using the English-speaking country as a base for smuggling. His responsibilities would also include enhancing the department's technology and bettering its forensic and investigation methods, Jagdeo said.
Jagdeo, who won another five-year term in general elections on Aug. 28, did not say when Kerik was expected to start working in the country. In the days before elections, Jagdeo pledged that Kerik would overhaul Guyana's police force to stem increasing crime if his ruling People's Progressive Party won a fourth consecutive term.
Authorities say the nation's increase in crime is connected to the growing drug trade and gun smuggling. Drug traffickers earn the equivalent of an estimated 20 percent of Guyana's gross domestic product, according to the U.S. State Department.
Kerik, who has worked as a security consultant in the Middle East, has visited Guyana at least once for talks with top officials.
He first drew attention in the United States while leading the New York police department's response to the Sept. 11 attacks. By late 2004, President Bush nominated him for Homeland Security chief, but Kerik withdrew after acknowledging he had not paid all taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper and that the woman may have been in the country illegally.
In June, roughly 18 months after his Homeland Security nomination sank, Kerik pleaded guilty to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from a company that was trying to do business with New York City while he was correction commissioner.
Last month, the New York Daily News reported that U.S. authorities were investigating Kerik for his involvement in a foundation that he oversaw while head of the city's Correction Department. The newspaper said the foundation failed to report how it spent nearly $1 million in cash rebates earned from cigarette sales to prisoners.