THE US Statement Department is concerned about the growing trend of cocaine smuggling through Bahamian airports – particularly cases in which LPIA staff are implicated.
Aviation routes used by drug traffickers between the Bahamas and the US are “an increasing source of concern,” according to a newly released report, which also highlighted the availability of drugs in prison, the increase in marijuana use among students, and the police’s inability to tackle Haitian-Bahamian drug gangs.
The report said: “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.
“US law enforcement analysts anticipate that sustained law enforcement pressure on networks in Central America will continue to compel illicit drug traffickers to re-establish both alternate and historic drug smuggling routes from producer countries to the United States, including through the Bahamas.”
These routes begin with small, privately owned and operated planes ferrying loads of cocaine from and between source countries in South America.
The report said drug trafficking organisations use airdrops and remote airfields to deliver large cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas – mostly from Venezuela and Colombia.
It adds: “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.”
The 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) recognises the strong relationship between the Bahamas and the United States when it comes to fighting drug trafficking.
However, it also calls for “streamlining and establishing better protocols to expedite the flow of extraditions” of people in the Bahamas wanted to face drug charges in the US.
“(This) 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 US extradition requests are known to continue illegal drug smuggling activities while out on bail awaiting the resolution of their cases,” the INCSR said.
Drug smuggling by boat remains a major concern, the report said.
Smugglers exploit the wide distribution of islands and the high number of recreational vessels flowing through Bahamian waters to disguise their activities, it said.
“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.”
The report said Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organisations – “increasingly networked between Haiti and the significant Haitian diaspora in the Bahamas” – continue to play a major role in the movement of cocaine.
It adds: “Investigations of these organisations are hindered by a lack of trusted and appropriately assigned Creole speakers within the RBPF Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).”
Speaking about the Bahamas’ domestic drug problems, the INCSR noted that while cocaine dependency is predominantly limited to those who became addicts during the 1980s and 90s, 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 report added.