The Bahamas is a major transit point for cocaine from South America bound for both the U.S. and Europe, and for marijuana from Jamaica. The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (GCOB) cooperates closely with the U.S. Government, including participating in Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Island (OPBAT), to stop the flow of illegal drugs through its territory. The GCOB also cooperates to target Bahamian drug trafficking organizations, and to reduce the Bahamian domestic demand for drugs. The Bahamas is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
Cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs are transshipped through The Bahamas' 700 islands and cays spread over an area the size of California. Drug trafficking via maritime and aerial routes between South American source countries and the United States make detection difficult. While there is no official estimate of the number of hectares under cultivation, marijuana grown on remote islands and cays is of concern to Bahamian authorities. In 2009, The Bahamas continued to participate in 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.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2009
Policy Initiatives. The GCOB upgraded its interdiction capabilities with the acquisition of two fixed wing surveillance aircraft for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) and one fixed-wing transport aircraft for the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF). Plans to upgrade the RBDF base on the island of Great Inagua continue to be moribund due to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ike in 2008 and GCOB budget cuts in response to the downturn in the Bahamian tourism industry. The GCOB continued to enforce its ban on Haitian wooden hulled sloops in Bahamian waters. In addition to posing serious safety concerns, these vessels historically were a convenient method used for smuggling narcotics and illegal migrants through The Bahamas. According to media reports, during a July 2009 meeting Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and Haitian President Rene Preval agreed to expand cooperation against illicit smuggling, including joint exercises between the RBDF and the Haitian Coast Guard.
Accomplishments. In 2009, the RBPF Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) cooperated closely with U.S. and other foreign law enforcement agencies on drug investigations. Including OPBAT seizures, Bahamian authorities seized 1.823 metric tons of cocaine and nearly 11 metric tons of marijuana from January 2009 through October 2009. The DEU arrested over 1,000 persons on drug-related offenses and seized $4 million in cash.
Law Enforcement Efforts. 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 2009, 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. The RBPF participated actively in OPBAT, and officers of the 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 through the use of 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 four interceptor "fast boats" donated under U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Friendship program, and two 60 meter vessels operated out of Nassau. The RBPF operated 11 small, short range vessels based in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini, Andros, and other small islands and cays. RBPF vessels include 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.
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 investigated for drug-related offenses in 2009. 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; 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. There are currently 51 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 Judicial Committee of 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. There are no official estimates of hectares of marijuana under cultivation in The Bahamas. USG and host country enforcement agencies believe Jamaican nationals are involved in the cultivation of marijuana on The Bahamas' remote islands and cays, however only a fraction of the marijuana seizures in 2009 were in plant form. Most marijuana loads were found concealed aboard smuggling vessels or stashed on sparsely populated islands. OPBAT and the RBPF cooperated in identifying, seizing, and destroying nearly 11 metric tons of marijuana during the period from January through October 2009.
Drug Flow/Transit. Cocaine transits The Bahamas via go-fast boats, small commercial freighters, or small aircraft from Jamaica, Hispaniola and Venezuela. DEA estimates that this accounts for approximately five percent of the cocaine flow to the U.S. 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 marijuana from Jamaica, through The Bahamas and into Florida in the same manner that cocaine is moved. From January through October 2009, USG and host country law enforcement assets interdicted seven vessels and disrupted numerous attempts to smuggle illicit drugs through The Bahamas. DEA/OPBAT estimates that there are 12 to 15 major Bahamian drug trafficking organizations operating 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. Illegal drugs are also smuggled using commercial maritime means. Illegal drugs have been seized from cargo containers transiting the port container facility in Freeport. The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations into alien smuggling operations in the Bahamas often have revealed a connection to drug trafficking as well.
Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. 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. Although NADS received additional funding and support from the USG in 2009, it requires a significant increase in personnel and funding in order to coordinate, plan, and implement The Bahamas' 2004 Anti-Drug Plan. In 2009, GCOB and NGO drug prevention efforts focused primarily on schools and youth organizations on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and other population centers.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Policy Initiatives. The goals of USG assistance 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.
Bilateral Cooperation. During 2009, 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, repaired and upgraded RBPF interdiction boats based at Grand Bahama, and supported the GCOB's "Drug Free Schools" initiative with funding for teacher training, transportation, and course materials.
The USCG moved forward with plans to rebuild the OPBAT hangar on Great Inagua. Pending the successful conclusion of lease negotiations with the GCOB, construction will begin in 2010 with completion planned for 2012. The new hangar 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. The USCG provided resident, mobile and on-the-job training in maritime law enforcement, engineering and maintenance, professional development for the officer and enlisted corps, and medical practices to the RBDF. Before the end of 2009, the Department of Defense will deliver two additional 43-foot interceptor boats and communications equipment to the RBDF under the U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Friendship program.
The Road Ahead. Despite the Bahamian Government's strong commitment to joint counternarcotics efforts and to extradite drug traffickers to the U.S., the slow movement of extradition requests through the overburdened Bahamian judicial system is a source of concern. 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. We encourage GCOB efforts to decrease the time needed to resolve these and other criminal cases by increasing the resources and manpower available to prosecutors, judges, and magistrates. Prime Minister Ingraham's call for greater cooperation between The Bahamas and Haiti was also welcome. The GCOB could enhance its drug control efforts further by integrating Creole speakers into the DEU and encouraging information sharing between the RBPF, RBDF, and the Haitian National Police (HNP) to develop information on Haitian drug trafficking organizations operating in The Bahamas. The GCOB enhanced OPBAT's maritime interdiction capabilities by basing the four interceptor boats acquired under Operation Enduring Friendship in 2008 on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Great Inagua. These capabilities could be developed further by stationing the two new boats received in 2009 on Grand Bahama and Great Inagua.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Country Reports|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2010|