The Bahamas is not a significant drug producing country but remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the United States and other international markets. The Bahamas' close proximity to the coast of Florida as well as Caribbean drug transshipment routes makes it a natural conduit for drug smuggling. Furthermore, The Bahamas's 700 islands and cays, the vast majority of which are uninhabited, provide near ideal conditions for illicit smuggling. Smugglers readily blend in among the armada of pleasure craft traveling throughout The Bahamas archipelago spanning 100,000-square nautical miles. Recent law enforcement information points to increased smuggling through air traffic, both by newly established commercial traffic from South and Central America and through private planes. U.S. law enforcement analysts anticipate that sustained law enforcement pressure on networks in Central America will continue to compel illicit drug traffickers to reestablish both alternate and historic drug smuggling routes from producer countries to the United States, including through The Bahamas.
Surveys sponsored by the Bahamian government suggest the demand for cocaine has diminished, though casual and chronic use of marijuana is an area of concern. The government remains committed to reducing drug trafficking and demand for drugs.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
In 2012, the Bahamian government released its update to the 2004-09 National Anti-Drug Strategy. The new 2012-16 strategy lays out government plans for reducing drug demand and supply; strengthening anti-drug institutions; building international cooperation; and resourcing anti-drug efforts. Written at the end of the previous Free National Movement government's tenure, the implementation of the strategy will fall to the new Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) government elected in May.
Among the PLP government's new initiatives is the Swift Justice program which seeks to reduce processing time for serious cases through improved criminal case management. Construction of new facilities and increases in personnel are ongoing, and headway on its backlog of cases will depend on the flexibility and effective implementation of these measures by the criminal justice system.
The United States and The Bahamas are bilateral parties to both a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) and an extradition treaty. The United States and The Bahamas have a strong mutual legal assistance relationship. The MLAT facilitates the bilateral exchange of information and evidence for use in criminal proceedings. Joint activities between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bahamian government have resulted in evidence from The Bahamas being used to prosecute traffickers in the United States. Streamlining and establishing better protocols to expedite the flow of extraditions would bring drug crime offenders more quickly to trial and serve as a more credible deterrent for traffickers. Currently, defendants can appeal a magistrate's decision up to Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. This process often adds years to an extradition proceeding; the last extradition occurred in 2010. Some subjects of U.S. extradition requests are known to continue illegal drug smuggling activities while out on bail awaiting the resolution of their cases.
The United States signed a comprehensive maritime agreement with The Bahamas in 2004 that enables 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.
2. Supply Reduction
Under Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands (OPBAT), U.S. agencies led by the DEA and including the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection integrate with the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) to gather intelligence, conduct investigations, and execute interdictions. OPBAT remains the cornerstone of counternarcotics law enforcement cooperation in the region. In 2012, operations under OPBAT led to the seizure of 236 kilograms (kg) of cocaine; 162 metric tons of marijuana; 149,074 marijuana plants; 201 arrests; and $122,333 in assets. These operations are supported by marine and technical resources provided through U.S. assistance programs. With a small population base (353,000 people according to the 2010 census) and significant territory to cover, pooling U.S. and local resources and knowledge is essential to efficient deterrence and interdiction. The Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF), as well as law enforcement personnel in the Turks and Caicos Islands, participate in counternarcotics operations.
Smugglers exploit the wide distribution of numerous islands and the high number of recreational vessels flowing through the boating-friendly waters of The Bahamas. Large loads are known to split up into smaller loads before entering the southern Bahamas through the customs station in Great Inagua, which is strategically located between the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Traffickers move cocaine through 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, then head for Florida through Bahamian waters.
Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organizations--increasingly networked between Haiti and the significant Haitian diaspora in The Bahamas--continue to play a major role in the movement of cocaine. Investigations of these organizations are hindered by a lack of trusted and appropriately assigned Creole speakers within the RBPF Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU). Investigations reveal that Bahamian drug trafficking organizations are using the Turks and Caicos Islands as a transshipment point. The Government of the United Kingdom suspended the Turks and Caicos Islands' right to self-government in 2009 amid allegations of mismanagement of Crown land and other irregularities. Self-government was restored in late 2012.
Aviation routes are an increasing source of concern. Small, privately owned and operated planes ferry loads of cocaine from and between source countries South America into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Information acquired by Bahamian law enforcement suggests that drug trafficking organizations have utilized airdrops and remote airfields to deliver large cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to The Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia. There has also been a rise in the interdiction of cocaine at the international airport by Customs and Border Protection agents working at the pre-clearance facility, with at least one case allegedly involving staff employed by the Nassau Airport Authority. Bahamian officials expect a significant increase in tourist traffic with the opening of new air routes from Latin America and the anticipated completion of the Bahamas megaresort in 2014.
Bahamian law enforcement agencies leverage their small fleet of vessels by prepositioning them in strategic locations on the archipelago. These vessels are located in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Exuma, Bimini, Andros, and other islands depending on operational needs. Effective use of this limited number of vessels over a vast area of coverage depends on effective use of quality intelligence and aviation support during critical interdiction missions. Additionally, the RBDF operates a fleet of 14 vessels and various small boats out of New Providence, Grand Bahama Island, Bimini, Abaco, and Great Inagua, which conduct regular patrols.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
The Bahamian government determined in its most recent anti-drug strategy that cocaine dependency in The Bahamas is predominantly limited to those who became addicts during the 1980s and 90s. The report further reveals that experimentation and use of marijuana is increasing among school-aged groups. Intake surveys and testing found that many inmates at Her Majesty's Prison at Fox Hill (Nassau), the only prison in The Bahamas, tested positive for drugs and that some inmates maintain access to drugs during their incarceration.
The government's strategy employs a multi-tiered approach to reducing demand. Its main institutional bodies are the National Anti Drug Secretariat, the Bahamas National Drug Council, and the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center. In its approach, the Bahamian government seeks to strengthen its connections with civil society organizations that work with youth, addicts, and ex-convicts.
The Bahamian government does not encourage nor 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 2012.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The Bahamas is one of the most active and strategic contributors in the Caribbean Basic Security Initiative, both at the Ministry of National Security and senior police levels. Such contributions have made the Bahamian government a respected and welcomed voice in these regional fora.
U.S. assistance funds supported The Bahamas' maritime capabilities. In 2012, the United States funded new marine engines for the 40-ft Avenger interceptor. First donated by the United States in 2001, the Avenger will be the most capable law enforcement interceptor in the northern Bahamas until the new 41-foot SAFE boat interceptor arrives in 2013. Though the RBPF Marine Unit has effectively refurbished and maintained its marine vessels, it has not received additional funding for new law enforcement specific vessels.
RBPF, DEU and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) maintain an enduring presence on Great Inagua and, in four other locations in The Bahamas, to assist with counternarcotics enforcement. USCG is nearing completion of a hurricane-resilient aviation hangar adjacent to permanent living quarters, which will be used by rotating aviation and counter drug personnel, both U.S. and Bahamian. Since Hurricane Ike destroyed the original Great Inagua aircraft hangar in 2008, USCG helicopters have temporarily operated out of the Turks and Caicos Islands, as part of its participation in OPBAT.
In order to build regional safety and security capacity, the United States provided 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 RBDF uses the USCG Officer Candidate School as one of its primary officer ascension programs.
The United States has delivered training needed by RBPF counterparts to combat criminal networks in The Bahamas. For example, members of the RBPF were trained by DEA in proper forced entry and homicide investigations techniques. The RBPF has also benefited from a study tour of the Denver Gang Taskforce and an anti-gang seminar delivered by FBI and Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.
U.S. assistance funds for demand reduction have supported the Bahamas National Drug Council in its work to prevent drug abuse in the outer Family Islands, improve the ability of civil society groups to develop and implement projects, and through the donation of 500 drug test kits to the Her Majesty's Prison. U.S. Mission personnel conduct outreach activities (particularly among youth) in support of demand reduction.
The United States and The Bahamas remain strong partners and enjoy a cooperative counternarcotics relationship. Funds associated with the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative will require intensified coordination and strategic planning. Long delays in extradition requests and lack of Creole speakers in key Bahamian law enforcement units endure as challenges. Better integration of financial monitoring and investigations would improve counterdrug efforts.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Country Reports|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2013|