U.S. says Bahamian justice system is ‘greatest challenge’ in drug fight
The criminal justice sector in The Bahamas is the country’s greatest weakness in combatting drug trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2019.
The report is based on information compiled in 2018.
“The greatest challenge to the host government in tackling the trafficking issue remains the weakness of the Bahamian criminal justice sector,” the report said.
“While the average time between initial arraignment and trial in 2017 was within 90 days for minor offenses, for more serious matters, such as those involving trafficking, smuggling, firearms, or gang violence, regular adjournments prolonged cases, in some instances for several years.
“Many accused choose to go to trial, confident the courts will take years to move their case through the system and the government will eventually drop the charges.”
However, the report noted that the judiciary has begun to make improvements.
“In 2018, the Magistrate’s Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal introduced U.S.-provided digital audio recording equipment in the courtroom to record procedures and serve as the official record in the Magistrate’s Court,” it said.
“The judiciary expects this improvement to increase both the transparency and efficiency of the justice sector.”
New leadership in law enforcement
The report said there was a significant increase in cooperation from Bahamian law enforcement agencies in 2018 compared to previous years.
“During 2018, there was a notable increase in communication, effectiveness and cooperation between Bahamian law enforcement agencies and the United States,” it said.
“New leadership in the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) and Ministry of National Security, as well as the leadership within the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), were integral to many of these improvements.”
It also established a direct link between the issue of drug trafficking and the Haitian community in The Bahamas.
“Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organizations, networked between Haiti and the significant Haitian diaspora in The Bahamas, continue to play a role in the movement of cocaine,” it said.
Money laundering has historically been a significant concern for The Bahamas and remained a concern, the report noted.
It said that the country is particularly vulnerable due to its position as an international financial center.
“Proceeds from facilitating drug transit, particularly bulk cash payments to local individuals and criminal gangs, are a key concern,” the report said.
It added, “The high volume of large, cross-border asset transactions enhances the risk of money laundering through private banks, trust services, insurance companies and corporate service providers. Other money laundering methodologies may include purchase of real estate and precious metals and stones.”
However, it acknowledged new legislation meant to address the issue.