The Bahamas, a 700-mile-long archipelago off the eastern coast of the U.S., is a major transit point for cocaine from South America bound for both the U.S. and Europe, and for marijuana from Jamaica. Participating in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Island (OPBAT), the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (GCOB) cooperates closely with the USG to stop the flow of illegal drugs through its territory, to target Bahamian drug trafficking organizations, and to reduce the Bahamian domestic demand for drugs. In 2007, the Bahamian Parliament passed into law precursor chemical control legislation. The GCOB has increased funding to strengthen its interdiction capabilities in vulnerable regions of the country and the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) seized $7.8 million in drug-related cash. The Bahamas is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
The Bahamas is an attractive country for transshipments of cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs because of its 700 islands and cays spread over an area the size of California astride maritime and aerial routes between South American drug producing countries and the United States. Cultivation of marijuana on remote islands and cays is of concern to Bahamian authorities, although there is no official estimate of the hectarage involved. The Bahamas is not a producer or transit point for drug precursor chemicals. In 2007, The Bahamas continued to participate in Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos (OPBAT)--a multi-agency international drug interdiction effort established in 1982 to stop the flow of cocaine and marijuana through The Bahamas to the U.S. In October 2007, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel and air assets took over responsibility for the OPBAT base in George Town, Exuma following the withdrawal of U.S. Army helicopter support.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2007
Policy Initiatives. In January 2007, the Bahamian Parliament passed into law precursor chemical control legislation and, in May, the GCOB approved funding for additional boats and one surveillance aircraft for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) to support its counternarcotics efforts. The government has plans to upgrade the RBDF base in Great Inagua, where maritime drug smugglers enter Bahamian territorial waters and to establish a new base in the Northern Bahamas. The GCOB and the Government of Haiti continue negotiations concerning the placement of Haitian National Police officers on Great Inagua Island to improve the collection of intelligence from Haitian sail freighters passing through Bahamian territorial waters.
Accomplishments. In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) cooperated closely with U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies on drug investigations. During 2007, including OPBAT seizures, Bahamian authorities seized 630 kilograms of cocaine and approximately 50.5 metric tons (MT) of marijuana. The DEU arrested 527 persons on drug-related offenses and seized $7.8 million in cash, five vessels and an airplane.
Law Enforcement Efforts. To enhance the results of drug interdiction missions, the RBDF provided vetted officers to the DEU in 2007. The RBDF also agreed to position a DOD funded fast-boat in Great Inagua to provide OPBAT endgame capabilities. The DEA, in conjunction with the DEU and Bahamian Customs, initiated a program in Great Inagua to enforce GCOB requirements that vessels entering Bahamian territorial waters report to Bahamian Customs. During 2007, the RBDF assigned three ship-riders each month to Coast Guard cutters. The ship-riders extend the law enforcement capability of the U.S. Coast Guard into the territorial waters of The Bahamas. In October, the U.S. Army terminated its participation in OBPAT. The DEA replaced the U.S. Army at the base and is now responsible for carrying out OPBAT interdiction operations. During the year, OPBAT assets intercepted maritime drug smugglers detected by USG surveillance aircraft and on occasion, the Cuban Border Guard. The USCG provides assets for OPBAT, including three helicopters and approximately 100 personnel. The RBPF participated actively in OPBAT, and officers of DEU and the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police also flew on OPBAT missions, making arrests and seizures.
Corruption. 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, nor the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior official in the GCOB was convicted of drug related offenses in 2007. The RBPF uses an internal committee to investigate allegations of corruption involving police officers instead of an independent entity.
Agreements and Treaties. 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 and on January 10, 2008, GCOB acceded to the UN Convention against Corruption. 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. There are currently 30 U.S. extraditions pending in the Bahamas. GCOB prosecutors pursue USG extradition requests vigorously. However, in the Bahamian justice system, defendants can appeal a magistrate's decision, first domestically, and ultimately, to the Privy Council in London. This process often adds years to an extradition procedure. The USG also 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.
Cultivation and Production. Although there are no official estimates of marijuana hectarage in the islands, cultivation of marijuana by Jamaicans is a continuing trend. The majority of marijuana seized in 2007 was in plant form grown by Jamaican nationals on remote islands and cays of the Bahamas. OPBAT and the RBPF cooperated in identifying, seizing and destroying the marijuana.
Drug Flow/Transit. Cocaine arrives in The Bahamas via go-fast boats, small commercial freighters, or small aircraft from Jamaica, Hispaniola and Venezuela. According to USG law enforcement, sport fishing vessels and pleasure crafts then transport 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 between 2 to 6 MT marijuana shipments from Jamaica to The Bahamas. These shipments are then moved to Florida in the same manner as cocaine.
During 2007, law enforcement officials identified 34 suspicious go-fast boats in Bahamian waters. In addition, there were 12 suspected drug smuggling aircraft detected over Bahamian territory. Small amounts of drugs were found on individuals transiting through the international airports in Nassau and Grand Bahamas Island and the cruise ship ports. GCOB law enforcement officers have noted that Haitian traffickers are concealing their drugs in hidden compartments in wooden-hulled sailing freighters and Haitian criminal organizations are commingling drugs with illegal migrant smuggling. Bahamian law enforcement officials also identified shipments of drugs in Haitian sloops and coastal freighters. Intelligence sources suspect multi-ton cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and The Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia took place during the year. However, none of these shipments were successfully interdicted. Illegal drugs have also been found in transiting cargo containers stationed at the port container facility in Freeport. DEA/OPBAT estimates that there are a twelve to fifteen major Bahamian drug trafficking organizations.
Domestic Programs. The quasi-governmental National Drug Council 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. The focus of the prevention/education program in 2007 was on schools and youth organizations, especially those located outside of New Providence Island.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Policy Initiatives. The goals of USG assistance to The Bahamas are to dismantle drug trafficking organizations, stem the flow of illegal drugs through The Bahamas to the United States, and strengthen Bahamian law enforcement and judicial institutions to make them more effective and self-sufficient in combating drug trafficking and money laundering.
Bilateral Cooperation. During 2007, INL funded training, equipment, travel and technical assistance for GCOB law enforcement and drug demand reduction officials; procured computer and other equipment to improve Bahamian law enforcement capacity to target trafficking organizations through better intelligence collection and more efficient interdiction operations; provided funding to the National Drug Council (NDC) so its staff could participate in a University of the West Indies on-line course in prevention and treatment of drug addiction; and funded a survey of drug use among individuals admitted into hospital emergency rooms. In FY 2007, the USCG provided resident, mobile and on the job training in maritime law enforcement, engineering and logistics, professional development, medical and seamanship to the RBDF.
Road Ahead. We encourage the Bahamian Government to continue its strong commitment to joint counternarcotics efforts and its cooperative efforts to extradite drug traffickers to the U.S. Standing up, staffing and funding its National Drug Secretariat will greatly assist GCOB efforts to implement its 2004 National Anti-Drug Plan. The Embassy is working with the GCOB to implement regulations banning wooden-hulled sailing freighters from Bahamian waters, most of which originate from ports in Haiti. These freighters are believed to play a key role in drug and migrant smuggling through The Bahamas. The GCOB can further enhance its drug control efforts by integrating Creole speakers into the DEU and by working with HNP officers to be stationed in Great Inagua to develop information on Haitian drug traffickers transiting the Bahamas. The USG will urge the GCOB to further integrate the RBDF into OPBAT by placing some of its marine assets acquired under the United States Southern Command's Enduring Friendship program in Freeport and Great Inagua to provide OPBAT end-game capabilities in these areas.
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|Title Annotation:||The Caribbean|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Article Type:||Country overview|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|