Country reports: the Bahamas.
The Bahamas' archipelago contains several major transit points for South American cocaine and Jamaican marijuana bound for the United States. Although listed again as a Major Illicit Drug Transit country for 2011, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (GCOB), with its close proximity to the United States coastline, has been a steady ally against illegal narcotics trafficking. In 2010, The GCOB continued to participate in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), a multiagency international drug interdiction effort established in 1982 to stop the flow of cocaine and marijuana through The Bahamas to the U. S. The GCOB also cooperates to target Bahamian drug trafficking organizations, and to reduce the Bahamian domestic demand for drugs.
Cocaine and marijuana are transshipped through The Bahamas' 700 islands and cays spread over an area the size of California. Drug Trafficking Organizations capitalize on the vast geography, via small commercial and private conveyances along short-distance maritime and aerial routes, making detection and apprehension difficult. In addition, the use of commercial cargo containers for smuggling contraband on larger ships through GCOB seaports, particularly the Freeport Container Port, continued to be of concern to Bahamian authorities. The Bahamas is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
In 2010, the Royal Bahamas Police Force's (RBPF) participated actively in OPBAT. Officers of the RBPF's Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police also flew on OPBAT missions, making arrests and seizures. The RBDF and RBPF conducted maritime smuggling and security patrols with a variety of small to medium-sized vessels based throughout The Bahamas. The RBDF fleet of 14 vessels and various small boats are operated out of bases on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Great Inagua. RBDF assets include six interceptor "fast boats" donated under U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Friendship program, and two 60 meter vessels operated out of Nassau.
The RBPF operates 11 small, short range vessels based in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini, Andros, and other small islands and cays, including three fast boats donated under the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs' bilateral narcotics and law enforcement assistance program. The RBDF and RBPF vessels are generally well-maintained by properly trained crews; however the effectiveness of their maritime interdiction and security efforts is limited by the few resources they have to cover the large expanse of Bahamian territorial waters.
The Bahamas is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, as amended by the 1972 Protocol; the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances; the 1988 UN Drug Convention; the 1990 U.S. -Bahamas-Turks and Caicos Island Memorandum of Understanding concerning Cooperation in the Fight Against Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs; and the Inter-American Convention against Trafficking in Illegal Firearms. The GCOB is also a party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption; the UN Convention against Corruption; and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols.
The U.S. and The Bahamas cooperate in law enforcement matters under an extradition treaty and a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT). The MLAT facilitates the bilateral exchange of information and evidence for use in criminal proceedings. GCOB prosecutors pursue USG extradition requests vigorously in the Bahamian justice system defendants can appeal a magistrate's decision, first domestically, and ultimately, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. This process often adds years to an extradition procedure. In addition, there have been credible reports of subjects of U.S. extradition requests continuing to participate in illegal drug smuggling activities while on bail awaiting resolution of their cases.
The United States has a Comprehensive Maritime Agreement (CMA) with The Bahamas, which went into effect in 2004 replacing a patchwork of disparate safety, security and law enforcement agreements. Among its provisions, the CMA permits cooperation in counternarcotics and migrant interdiction operations in and around Bahamian territorial waters, including the use of ship riders and expedited boarding approval and procedures. This agreement was utilized often in 2010 showcasing the Bahamian Government's strong commitment to joint counternarcotics efforts.
2. Supply Reduction
In 2010, the DEU cooperated closely with U.S. and other foreign law enforcement agencies on drug investigations. Including OPBAT seizures, Bahamian authorities seized 269 kilograms (kg) of cocaine and seized or eradicated over 42 metric tons of marijuana during calendar year 2010. The DEU arrested over 1,000 persons on drug-related offenses and seized over $821,000 in cash.
The DEU and Bahamian Customs, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), continued a program in Great Inagua to enforce GCOB requirements that vessels entering Bahamian territorial waters report to Bahamian Customs. During 2010, the RBDF assigned three ship-riders each month to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutters. The ship-riders extend the law enforcement capability of the USCG into the territorial waters of The Bahamas.
Cocaine continues to transit The Bahamas via go-fast boats, small commercial freighters, or small aircraft. Small sport fishing vessels and pleasure crafts then move cocaine from The Bahamas to Florida, blending into the legitimate vessel traffic that moves daily between these locations. Larger go-fast and sport fishing vessels transport marijuana from Jamaica, through The Bahamas and into Florida in the same manner as cocaine. During 2010, The Bahamas and USG law enforcement assets interdicted 58 vessels and disrupted numerous attempts to smuggle illicit drugs through The Bahamas. DEA/OPBAT estimates that there are 12 to 15 major drug trafficking organizations operating in The Bahamas.
Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organizations continue to play a major role in the movement of cocaine from Hispaniola through The Bahamas. However, investigations of these organizations have been hindered by an insufficient number of Creole speakers within the DEU. In 2010, it was further stalled by the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, which limited the ability of the Haitian National Police to expand cooperative efforts with their law enforcement counterparts in The Bahamas. Bahamian law enforcement officials also identified shipments of drugs in Haitian sloops and coastal freighters. Information acquired by host country law enforcement suggests drug trafficking organizations have utilized air drops and remote airfields to deliver large cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia.
Although maritime conveyances continue to be an important method of drug transit through The Bahamas, the majority of cocaine seized in recent years has been concealed in containerized cargo transiting the Freeport Container Port on the island of Grand Bahamas. DEA believes Colombian traffickers are utilizing containerized cargo as a means to thwart the efforts of law enforcement officials in The Bahamas. Approximately 3 metric tons of cocaine have been seized at the Freeport Container Port since 2007.
While there are no official estimates of hectares of marijuana under cultivation in The Bahamas, USG and host country law enforcement agencies believe Jamaican nationals are involved in the cultivation of marijuana on The Bahamas' remote islands and cays. Host country law enforcement eradicated over 35,000 marijuana plants during 2010. That was roughly three times the number eradicated for 2009. Taken together, marijuana seizures and plant eradication accounted for the destruction of some 42 metric tons of marijuana during this year.
3. Drug Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
The Bahamas National Anti-Drug Secretariat (NADS) coordinates the demand reduction programs of the various governmental entities such as Sandilands Rehabilitation Center and of NGO's such as the Drug Action Service and The Bahamas Association for Social Health. NADS received support from the USG in 2010, but it requires a significant increase in personnel and funding in order to continue to coordinate, plan, and implement The Bahamas' 2004 Anti-Drug Plan. In 2010, GCOB and NGO drug prevention efforts focused primarily on schools and youth organizations on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and other population centers.
As a matter of policy, the GCOB does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior official in the GCOB was investigated for drug-related offenses in 2010. The RBPF uses an internal committee to investigate allegations of corruption involving police officers instead of an independent entity.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The Bahamas is partnering with the other nations of the Caribbean and the United States to combat the drug trade and other transnational crime that threatens security. This shared security partnership has received new attention and commitment under the auspices of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), a multi-year USG assistance program that focuses on supporting citizen safety programs and regional security institutions. The goals of CBSI relative to The Bahamas are to: stem the flow of illegal drugs through The Bahamas and into the United States; dismantle drug trafficking organizations; and strengthen Bahamian law enforcement and judicial institutions to make them more effective and self-sufficient in combating drug trafficking and money laundering activities.
During 2010, INL funded various training, equipment, travel and technical assistance for GCOB law enforcement and drug demand reduction officials. Computers and other equipment were procured to improve Bahamian law enforcement's capacity to target traffic king organizations through better intelligence collection and more efficient interdiction operations. INL funds also provided tactical equipment and training to the RBPF; and supported the GCOB's "Drug Free Schools" initiative with funding for teacher training, transportation, and course materials. After successful conclusions to lease negotiations in early 2010, the USCG was allowed to move forward with its plans to rebuild the OPBAT hangar on the island of Great Inagua. This two year construction project, which is expected to begin in 2011, will allow USCG to base helicopters flying in support of OPBAT on Great Inagua. USCG's helicopters have been operating from Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands since Hurricane Ike destroyed the original Great Inagua hangar in 2008.
As a key partner in building regional safety and security capacity, the Department of Defense (DoD) funded resident, mobile and on-the job training in maritime law enforcement, engineering and maintenance, professional development for the RBDF's officer and enlisted corps through USCG programs. The DOD also provided two additional high speed interceptor boats to the RBDF under SOUTHCOM's Enduring Friendship program.
The United States and The Bahamas continue to be steadfast partners in the fight against drug traffickers and the strong working relationship among U.S. and Bahamian law enforcement agencies is an example for other joint operations in the region. The recently- launched CBSI framework intends to improve this relationship even further.
However, a need still exists to reduce the long de lays in resolving extradition requests and other criminal cases as an existing trend of law enforcement successes have been undermined by an overburdened Bahamian legal system. As mentioned in previous annual reports, we continue to encourage The Bahamas to increase the resources and manpower available to prosecutors, judges, and magistrates.
With regard to drug control efforts, it is recommended that the GCOB continue to examine the integration of Creole speakers into the DEU and to encourage information sharing between the RBPF, RBDF and the Haitian National Police. This relationship would help to develop information on Haitian drug trafficking organizations operating in The Bahamas. To further improve interoperability, build joint maritime security and law enforcement expertise, and enforce maritime laws at or beyond their territorial sea limit, it is recommended that RBPF and RBDF units work together to plan and execute at-sea law enforcement operations. Given the increase in drug trafficking using cargo containers and the subsequent seizures at the Freeport Container Port, it is also recommended that Port Authorities, Customs officials, and RBPF units work together to address this emerging threat.
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|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2011|
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