By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
CO-OPERATION between law enforcement agencies in the Bahamas and the United States “waned” under the Christie administration but has increased under the present administration, a new report from the US State Department says.
The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report covers January 1 to December 31, 2017 and was released this month.
The Bahamas is identified as one of 22 countries designated by US President Donald Trump as a major illicit drug producing and/or drug-transit country.
The country is also listed as a major money laundering country, this defined as a country “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.”
The report said a “country’s presence on the foregoing lists is not a reflection of its government’s counternarcotic efforts or level of cooperation with the United States.”
In its country report on the Bahamas, the report says: “The new government has increased cooperation and information sharing between Bahamian and US law enforcement agencies, which had waned under the previous government.”
That the new administration “has prioritised addressing public corruption as part of its national agenda” is mentioned, with the US noting three prison officers were arrested and charged with possession with intent to supply following investigations last year by prison management and the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
The report also revealed that cooperation between Bahamian law enforcement agencies and Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos led to the confiscation of 772 kilograms of cocaine, 8.32 metric tons of marijuana, $410,219 in currency and other assets valued at $935,5000 between January 1 and October 25 last year.
A marijuana field and 1,501 marijuana plants were also eradicated.
The report concluded illicit trafficking through the country “remains high.”
“Smugglers exploit the wide distribution of numerous islands and the high number of recreational vessels flowing through the Bahamas,” the report said. “Large loads are split into smaller loads before entering the southern Bahamas, sometimes bypassing the customs station in Great Inagua, strategically located between the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti, the Dominican Republican and Jamaica. Traffickers move cocaine through the Bahamas via ‘go-fast’ boats, small commercial freighters, maritime shipping containers and small aircraft. “Small sport fishing vessels and pleasure craft also move cocaine from the Bahamas to Florida by blending in with legitimate traffic that transits these areas. Large ‘go-fast’ and sport fishing vessels transport marijuana from Jamaica both to the Bahamas and through the Bahamas into Florida. Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organisations, networked between Haiti and significant diaspora in the Bahamas, continue to play a role in the movement of cocaine.
“Investigations reveal Bahamian drug trafficking organisations use the Turks and Caicos Islands as a transshipment point. Strong familial connections between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas, coupled with direct flights between Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, result in many Bahamian smugglers traveling to Haiti via the Turks and Caicos Islands with large amounts of cash for future smuggling ventures. Aerial drug transshipment remains a cause for concern. Small, privately owned and operated planes carry loads of cocaine from and between significant source countries in South America into the Caribbean. Law enforcement information suggests that drug trafficking organisations utilise airdrops and remote airfields to deliver cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to The Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia,” the report also noted.