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The Bahamas.

A. Introduction

The Bahamas archipelago, covering an area about the size of California, is home to several transit points for South American cocaine and marijuana and (mostly) Jamaican marijuana bound for the United States. The population of The Bahamas, estimated at about 350,000, enjoys a relatively high standard of living but is threatened by spillover issues from their southern neighbors, particularly those issues of narcotics smuggling and related criminal activity. The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas has been a stalwart ally against illegal narcotics trafficking, primarily through Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) led multiagency and international drug interdiction effort established in 1982 to stop the flow of cocaine and marijuana through The Bahamas to the United States. The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas 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' many islands and cays. Drug Trafficking Organizations take advantage of the vast geography and many hidden inlets by utilizing small commercial and private conveyances, both marine and aerial, to avoid detection. The vigilance of U.S. and Bahamian law enforcement has served as an effective deterrent. An estimated 80 percent of cocaine smuggled into the United States that passed through The Bahamas during the 1980s has diminished to current estimates of approximately 5 percent through the entire Caribbean.

Bahamian law enforcement organizations continue to evolve and build their capacity. Improvements in the justice sector, particularly improved prosecution and extradition practices, would help the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to more effectively disrupt and dismantle narcotics trafficking networks and address the rise in drug and gang-related crime.

The Bahamas is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

The Royal Bahamian Police Force (RBPF) and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force (RBDF), as well as law enforcement personnel in the Turks and Caicos Islands participate in counter narcotics operations through the OPBAT partnership. These institutions partner with counterpart U.S. agencies for training, intelligence gathering, and operations that lead to the seizure of contraband and to the arrest of traffickers.

The Bahamian law enforcement bodies use their small but capable fleet of vessels prepositioned in strategic locations to conduct patrols and interdictions throughout the roughly 100,000 square miles of Bahamian land and waters. The RBDF operates a fleet of 14 vessels and various small boats out of New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Great Inagua. This fleet includes 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 manages a fleet of 11 short-range vessels based in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Bimini, Andros, and other islands depending on need. This fleet includes three "fast boats" donated under the Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) bilateral assistance program. The fleet is capably managed and maintained and is frequently utilized for interdictions and patrols. Given the Bahamas' large geographic area and relatively small population, U.S. surface vessels and air support are vital for effective operations.

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 Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas 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 United States and The Bahamas have both a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and an Extradition Treaty. The United States and The Bahamas have an excellent mutual assistance relationship. The MLAT facilitates the bilateral exchange of information and evidence for use in criminal proceedings. DEA joint activities with the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas have resulted in evidence from The Bahamas being used to prosecute traffickers in the United States. Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas prosecutors seek to fulfill U.S. extradition requests in the Bahamian justice system. Delays and legal hurdles, however, prevent a regular flow of extraditions. Defendants can appeal a magistrate's decision and then continue appeals all the way up to Committee of the Privy Council in London. This process often adds years to an extradition proceeding. Some subjects of U.S. extradition requests are known to continue illegal drug smuggling activities while on bail awaiting the 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.

As a response to a record murder rate and rising crime, the legislature is finalizing a new set of laws that target drug-related crime and illegal firearms. These measures will reinforce magistrates' authority to hand down tougher sentences. The legislation will also permit an additional 200 police to be added to the force, particularly notable given the fiscal discipline the current government has demonstrated in its most recent budget. To reduce the number of illegal weapons on the street, the RBPF initiated a gun take-back program in October that included amnesty for the voluntary surrender of weapons. The program resulted in the removal of 74 weapons and various kinds of ammunition.

The National Drug Council (NDC) and the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (NADS) is currently revising the country's expired National Drug Strategy, last released for the 2004-09 period.

2. Supply Reduction

The Bahamas is primarily a transit country for illegal drugs, though there is some local cultivation of marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU), the primary drug fighting institution in the Bahamas, cooperated closely with the United States and other foreign law enforcement agencies on drug investigations. Including OPBAT seizures, Bahamian authorities seized 176 kilograms (kg) of cocaine and 24 metric tons of marijuana. There are no official estimates of hectares of marijuana under cultivation in The Bahamas. Host country law enforcement, however, eradicated over 20,000 marijuana plants during 2011, a decrease from last year's number but still nearly double the 2009 level. The DEU arrested over 80 people on drug-related offenses and seized over $938,521 in cash.

Contraband is smuggled through a variety of vessels, employing myriad strategies. Larger vessels are known to offload drugs on to small vessels before checking in with Bahamian Customs, and many vessels do not register at all when entering Bahamian waters. The DEU, in conjunction with the DEA, continued a program in Great Inagua to enforce Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas requirements that vessels entering Bahamian territorial waters report to Bahamian Customs.

Cocaine continues to transit The Bahamas via go-fast boats, small commercial freighters, containers, and small aircraft. Small sport fishing vessels and pleasure crafts move cocaine from The Bahamas to Florida by blending in with legitimate traffic that transit these areas. Larger "go-fast" and sport fishing vessels transport marijuana from Jamaica through The Bahamas and into Florida in the same manner as cocaine. Traffickers also skirt along the loosely monitored Cuban coast line, looking for opportune moments to break for Florida through Bahamian waters. During 2011, The Bahamas and U.S. law enforcement assets worked together on over 35 successful interdictions. U.S. antidrug-related agencies estimate that there are 12 to 15 significant 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. Investigations of these organizations are hindered by an enduring lack of Creole speakers within the DEU. Bahamian law enforcement regularly discovers drugs during inspections of Haitian sloops that continue to enter Bahamian waters despite being officially prohibited from doing so. Information acquired by host country law enforcement suggests that drug trafficking organizations have utilized air drops and remote airfields to deliver large cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to The Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia. Recent investigations reveal that Bahamian drug trafficking organizations are using the Turks and Caicos Islands as a transshipment point.

Although maritime means remain a significant 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 that Colombian traffickers are utilizing containerized cargo as a means to thwart the efforts of law enforcement officials in The Bahamas. Approximately three metric tons of cocaine have been seized at the Freeport Container Port since 2007. Nevertheless, the amounts seized from containers have diminished in recent years, including 2011.

3. Demand Reduction

NADS coordinates the demand reduction programs of 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. To increase effectiveness and avoid redundancy, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas will consolidate the NDC currently under the Ministry of Health, with NADS into one institution under the Ministry of National Security. The NDC and NADS will continue to focus on drug prevention efforts in schools and youth organizations on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and other population centers. They have also begun a civil society strengthening effort to build grass roots, sustainable activism for demand reduction efforts. DEA also participates in demand reduction programs targeting local schools and church groups.

4. Corruption

The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotics, psychotropic drugs, or other controlled substances. It also does not support the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. No senior official in the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas was investigated for drug-related offenses in 2011. 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. This shared security partnership has gained new momentum through 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 this reporting period, INL funded numerous tactical and intelligence-related training events as well as a new 41-foot aluminum interceptor that will enable DEU personnel to conduct operations farther, faster, and more safely. Funding will also support repairs for RBPF boats based in several other locations in The Bahamas; repairs which will dramatically improve the RBPF's interdiction "end game" capabilities.

Computers and other equipment were procured to improve Bahamian law enforcement's capacity to target trafficking organizations through better intelligence collection and more efficient interdiction operations. INL funds also provided tactical equipment and training to the RBPF; and supported the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas' "Drug Free Schools" initiative and demand reduction program.

The USCG is moving forward with its plans to rebuild the OPBAT hangar on the island of Great Inagua. This two-year construction project will allow USCG to base helicopters flying in support of OPBAT on Great Inagua. Since Hurricane Ike destroyed the original Great Inagua hangar in 2008, USCG helicopters temporarily operate out of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the neighboring British Overseas Territory, as part of its participation in OPBAT.

In order to build regional safety and security capacity, the USCG utilized DoD and DOS funds to provide resident, mobile and on-the job training in maritime law enforcement, small boats operations, port security, engineering and maintenance, and professional development for the RBDF's officer and enlisted corps. The DoD also provided two additional high speed interceptor boats to the RBDF under SOUTHCOM's Enduring Friendship program.

The U.S. interagency team has identified and delivered the training needed by RBPF counterparts to combat organized crime and criminal violence in The Bahamas. These trainings have been formulated to systematically build skill sets. For example, members of the RBPF were trained by DEA in arrest techniques which provide the basic skills to conduct safe enforcement operations. The RBPF has also received training in combat life-saving to deal with situations that arise during high risk arrests. All these skills are in critical need based on the recent trends in criminal activity encountered by the RBPF.

D. Conclusion

The United States and The Bahamas remain steadfast partners in the fight against drug traffickers, and the strong working relationship between U.S. and Bahamian law enforcement agencies serves as an example for other joint operations in the region. The recently-launched CBSI framework will further improve this relationship.

Reducing the long delays in extradition requests will help transition the success of operations through to prosecutions and address the continuation of traffickers' activities when they are out on bail. The overburdened Bahamian legal system may receive a reprieve once a newly announced expansion of the Prosecutors Office takes effect. More aggressive investigation and prosecution of money laundering will weaken drug trafficking networks and defend against the corrosive influence of drug money.

The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas will bolster their ability to fight smuggling from Haitian groups by more actively addressing the institutional barriers to integrating Creole speakers into the DEU and fostering appropriate information sharing between the RBPF, RBDF and the Haitian National Police. This approach would further develop an understanding of Haitian drug trafficking organizations operating in The Bahamas and prevent smugglers from exploiting information gaps as they pass between national jurisdictions.
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Title Annotation:Country Reports
Publication:International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:5BAHA
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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