REPORT: Challenges in justice system and police force see few drug trafficking cases prosecuted in The Bahamas

REPORT: Challenges in justice system and police force see few drug trafficking cases prosecuted in The Bahamas

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Challenges in cooperation between police and prosecutors and the lack of early involvement of prosecutors in criminal investigations has led to few drug trafficking cases being prosecuted in The Bahamas, according to a United States Department of State report.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), released this month, said: “Individuals charged with drug trafficking offenses regularly evade justice when released on bail.

“Trials are delayed by a case backlog; adjournments are procedural errors.

“At least one suspect continued to run major drug trafficking operations while complying with all pre-trial release requirements, only to later be arrested and convicted in a neighboring country.

“In recent years, the Bahamian government has prioritized investments in electronic records management technology to improve efficiency, ease case congestion and reduce time frames for proceedings.

“The United States provided transcripts-recording equipment to the judiciary for the criminal cases, [automating a process previously done by hand, and plans to expand the system to civil courts.”

The report said The Bahamas’ geographic location makes it a natural conduit for drug trafficking.

With numerous pleasure craft traversing the archipelago, traffickers blend in among them, while container ships, commercial and private planes and fishing vessels have contributed to the illegal trade.

The US Department of State said US law enforcement agencies work closely with the armed forces of The Bahamas on intelligence, investigations and interdictions.

It said US and Bahamian law enforcement investigations indicate that illicit trafficking through The Bahamas remains high, with OPBAT operations helping to seize 349 kilograms of cocaine and 1.5 metric tons of marijuana during the first 10 months of 2021.

According to police statistics released last month, Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) officers arrested 1,483 people in 2021, with 1,165 of them being charged in relation to dangerous drugs.

Between January and December 2021, police seized 4,672 pounds of cocaine and 6,323 pounds of marijuana, as well as 8,801 marijuana plants.

“Traffickers smuggle cocaine primarily from Hispaniola through The Bahamas into the United States using pleasure craft, including fishing and sailing vessels, by blending in with legitimate traffic that transits these areas,” the report noted.

According to the report, traffickers increased their use of aircraft to smuggle smaller loads of cocaine over the course of last year.

Larger “go-fast” and sports fishing vessels transport marijuana from Jamaica to and through The Bahamas into Florida, the report said, adding that trends indicate traffickers are taking steps to move marijuana production from parts of the Caribbean closer to the US.

The report also underscored that The Bahamas is exploring proposals to legalize cannabis-low THC and medical marijuana as part of an “economic growth plan focused on developing and supporting small businesses”.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.