Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, and the Netherlands together form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The two Caribbean parts of the Kingdom have autonomy over their internal affairs, with the right to exercise independent decision making in a number of counter narcotics areas. The Government of the Netherlands (GON) is responsible for the defense and foreign affairs of all three of the Kingdom and assists the Government of Aruba (GOA) and the Government of the Netherlands Antilles (GONA) in their efforts to combat narcotics trafficking. Negotiations are underway that are expected to result in the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2008, with Curacao and Sint Maarten to attain autonomous status similar to Aruba's, while the islands of Bonaire and Saint Eustatius would become municipalities within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Both Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles are active members of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and are subject to the 1988 UN Drug Convention as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Netherlands Antilles. The islands of the Netherlands Antilles (NA) (Curacao and Bonaire off Venezuela and Saba, Saint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten east of the U.S. Virgin Islands) continue to serve as northbound transshipment points for cocaine and increasing amounts of heroin coming from South America; chiefly Colombia, Venezuela, and to a much lesser extent, Suriname. Go-fast boats are typically used to transport drugs to U.S. territory in the Caribbean, although the use of fishing boats, freighters, and cruise ships is becoming more common. Direct transport to Europe, and at times to the U.S., is sometimes carried-out by "mules" (drug couriers) using commercial flights. The DEA and local law enforcement saw continued go-fast boat traffic this year with some load sizes reduced because of a potential exposure to law enforcement. This shift was attributed to successful investigations along with investments by the Antilles in border security like the new ground-based radar system capable of identifying inbound vessels. These shipments were generally en route to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, but Sint Maarten continued to hold some measurable popularity among couriers as a gateway to Europe. In addition to go-fast boat activity and smuggling via commercial airlines, large quantities of narcotics continued to be moved through in cargo containers.
Sint Maarten's geographic location and its multi-national population make it an ideal transshipment point between South America and the United States, for drugs and human smuggling. Dutch Sint Maarten is considered a "Free Zone", which means there are limited controls placed on import and export of goods. This situation also applies to financial crimes. The absence of rigorous checks into monetary flows means that money laundering and proceeds from illegal activities are relatively easy to conceal. Sint Maarten announced draft legislation to be presented to Parliament in 2008 that would extend the requirement to report suspicious financial transactions to include not only banks and casinos but car dealers, jewelers, insurance companies, lawyers and accountants as well. In preparation for its expected autonomous status, Sint Maarten established a Crime Action Task Force to enhance law enforcement efforts against drug trafficking, human smuggling and money laundering.
In Curacao, the crackdown at Curacao's Hato International Airport on "mules"--who either ingest or conceal on their bodies illegal drugs--continued during 2007. Detentions of mules declined from a high of 80 to 100 per day, to approximately 10 per month in 2007, according to local court statistics. The decline can be directly attributed to aggressive law enforcement tactics employed by Antillean authorities, in conjunction with their Dutch partners, coupled with innovative legislative tactics like the confiscation of the passports of Antillean couriers.
During 2007, the newly appointed Police Chief in conjunction with the Minister of Justice made a concentrated effort to improve Criminal Intelligence by creating a new Operational Intelligence Unit within the Curacao Police Corps. This specialized Intel Unit improved the investigative effectiveness of the police and successful joint Antillean/Dutch investigations conducted by the Hit and Run Money Laundering Team (HARM) have become commonplace during 2007.
The specialized Dutch police units (RSTs) that support law enforcement in the NA continued to be effective in 2007. RST Curacao had its biggest success in a joint international money laundering operation named Operation Kings Cross, which focused on illegal activities within the Curacao Free Zone. This operation resulted in the seizure of $120,000 in Euros and $130,000 in U.S. Currency and the arrest of the principal target in the investigation. In another joint RST investigation named Operation Pick Pocket results included the seizure of 542 kilograms of cocaine, 10 kilograms of heroin, and the arrest of 61 individuals.
The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba Coast Guard (CGNAA) was responsible for several seizures of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana during 2007. In October, the CGNAA, in coordination with the RST Curacao seized approximately 35 kilograms and a go-fast vessel. The CGNAA's three cutters, outfitted with rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and new 'super' RHIBs designed especially for counter narcotics work in the Caribbean, demonstrated their utility against go-fast boats and other targets.
The CGNAA has developed an effective counternarcotics intelligence service and is considered by the U.S. Coast Guard and DEA to be an invaluable international law enforcement partner. Under the continued leadership of the Attorney General, the GONA continued to strengthen its cooperation with U.S. law enforcement authorities throughout 2007. This cooperation extended to Sint Maarten, where the United States and the GONA continued joint efforts against international organized crime and drug trafficking.
The Dutch Navy also operates in the Netherlands Antilles under the auspices of Component Task Group 4.4 (CTG 4.4), which operates in international waters under the oversight of the Joint Inter Agency Task Force South (JIATF-S). Over the past two years, CTG 4.4 has become a close and essential ally of the DEA and other U.S. agencies. Their continual efforts to thwart drugs trafficking from the region have been noted at the highest levels of the DEA and U.S. government. Several notable seizures occurred during 2007. The most impressive effort was the tracking of a maritime vessel from Colombia, which culminated with the seizure of approximately 153 kilograms of heroin.
The GONA demonstrated its commitment to the counternarcotics effort by continued support for a U.S. Forward Operating Location (FOL) at the Curacao Hato International Airport. Under a ten-year use agreement, signed in March 2000 and ratified in October 2001 by the Dutch Parliament, U.S. military aircraft conduct counternarcotics detection and monitoring flights over both the source and transit zones from commercial ramp space provided free of charge.
Aruba. Aruba is a transshipment point for increasing quantities of heroin, and to a lesser extent cocaine that move north via cruise ships and the multiple daily flights to the U.S. and Europe. The island attracts drug traffickers because of its good infrastructure, excellent flight connections, and relatively light sentences for drug-related crimes served in prisons with relatively good living conditions.
While Aruba enjoys a low crime rate, crime reporting during 2007 indicates that prominent drug traffickers are established on the island. Drug abuse in Aruba, including among tourists, remains a cause for concern. Cruise lines that visit Aruba have strict boarding/search policies for employees in order to thwart efforts of the traffickers to establish regular courier routes back to the United States. The expanding use of MDMA in clubs by young people attracts increasing attention. Private foundations on the island work on drug education and prevention and the Aruba government's top counter narcotics official actively reaches out to U.S. sources for materials to use in prevention programs. The police also work in demand reduction programs among local schools and visit them regularly. The GOA has established an interagency commission to develop plans and programs to discourage youth from trafficking between the Netherlands and the U.S. The GOA has been very clear that it intends to pursue a dynamic counternarcotics strategy in close cooperation with its regional and international partners.
In 2007, Aruba law enforcement officials continued to investigate and prosecute mid-level drug traffickers who supply drugs to "mules." During 2007, there were several instances where Aruban authorities cooperated with U.S. authorities to carry out U.S. prosecutions of American citizens arrested in Aruba who were attempting to carry multi-kilogram quantities of drugs to the United States. Aruba also devotes substantial time and effort to the identification of the person's responsible for the importation of drugs to Aruba.
The GOA hosts the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-inspection and pre-clearance personnel at Reina Beatrix airport. These officers occupy facilities financed and built by the GOA. DHS seizures of cocaine and heroin were frequent in 2007. Aruba officials regularly explore ways to capitalize on the presence of the FOL and pre-clearance personnel, seeking to use resident U.S. law enforcement expertise to improve local law enforcement capabilities. In September, CBP's Office of International Affairs and Trade Relations provided training on the implementation of border enforcement best practices and the proper use of inspection tool kits in the examination of aircraft, containers, vehicles and cargo.
III. Actions Against Drugs in 2007
Accomplishments. Available drug seizure statistics for calendar year 2007, as of October 31, 2007, were: Aruba seized 390 kilograms of cocaine and 13 kilograms of heroin. The Netherlands Antilles seized 638 kilograms of cocaine and 10 kilograms of heroin.
Corruption. As a matter of policy, the NA does not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. During 2007, the NA continued an aggressive and successful program to identify certain links from prominent traffickers in the region to law enforcement officials, which prompted additional investigation in the region. The NA has been quick to address these issues through criminal investigations, internal investigations, new hiring practices, and continued monitoring of law enforcement officials that hold sensitive positions. Aruba's judiciary enjoys a well-deserved reputation for integrity. It has close ties with the Dutch legal system, including extensive seconding of Dutch prosecutors and judges to fill positions for which there are no qualified candidates among the small Antillean and Aruban populations.
Agreements and Treaties. The Netherlands extended the 1988 UN Drug Convention to the NA and Aruba in March 1999, with the reservation that its obligations under certain provisions would only be applicable in so far as they were in accordance with NA and Aruba criminal legislation and policy on criminal matters. The NA and Aruba subsequently enacted revised, uniform legislation to resolve a lack of uniformity between the asset forfeiture laws of the NA and Aruba. The obligations of the Netherlands as a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols apply to the NA and Aruba. The obligations of the Netherlands under the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances have applied to the NA since March 10. 1999. The Netherlands's Mutual Leeal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the United States applies to the NA and Aruba. Both Aruba and the NA routinely honor requests made under the MLAT and cooperate extensively with the United States on law enforcement matters at less formal levels.
Cultivation/Production. Cultivation and production of illicit drugs are not issues.
Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). Both the NA and Aruba have ongoing demand reduction programs, but need additional resources. In 2007, the Curacao Police Corps, in conjunction with Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.), opened a new D.A.R.E. facility in Willemstad, Curacao to aid in youth Demand Reduction activities.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
The United States encourages Aruba and NA law enforcement officials to participate in INL-funded regional training courses provided by U.S. agencies at the GOA and GONA's expense. Chiefly through the DEA and DHS/Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States is able to provide assistance to enhance technical capabilities as well as some targeted training. The U.S. continues to search for ways in which locally assigned U.S. law enforcement personnel can share their expertise with host country counterparts.
Appreciation of the importance of intelligence to effective law enforcement has grown in the Dutch Caribbean. The USG is expanding intelligence sharing with GOA and GONA officials as they realize the mutual benefits that result from such sharing. As U.S.-provided intelligence must meet the strict requirements of local law, sharing of intelligence and law enforcement information requires ongoing, extensive liaison work to bridge the difference between U.S. and Dutch-based law.
Road Ahead. Drug trafficking and related money laundering and criminal violence continue to threaten the Dutch Caribbean. The expansion of law enforcement cooperation between the U.S., Dutch, and Aruba and Netherlands Antilles will serve to protect the Dutch Caribbean from these threats and contribute to broader counternarcotics efforts in the Caribbean as well.
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|Title Annotation:||The Caribbean|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Article Type:||Country overview|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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