Police Make Major Drug Find

According to a US State department report, St Lucian officials reported in 2011 the eradication of 23 of an estimated 25 acres of marijuana, destroying approximately 400,000 grown plants. The island was also reporting last year, 438 kg of cannabis and 199kg of cocaine in total seizures with three major ones being made at sea. The report also pointed out that 80 percent of all arrests made on the island were drug related with 228 persons having been arrested in 2011 for drug offenses. One of the highlights, the US report pointed out was the arrest of a prominent businessman and his wife as suspected traffickers and money launderers, for possession and intent to distribute narcotics.
Not only is the fact that by all accounts the island is a trans-shipment point for illegal drugs a concern for local authorities but the connection to the offshore and money laundering is also drawing interest from foreign governments particularly the US.
In recent times Justice Minister Victor Phillip LaCorbiniere has been proffering that at the core of the majority of crime here was the drug trade adding that gang violence on the streets was informed by those “higher up the chain.” “It has to be that we begin to say to those up the line there is no room for you in Saint Lucia to pedal your drug activities,” La Corbiniere said during an interview in early September, 2012.
Later that same month, a new United States Senate report put forward that the Caribbean was facing a potential security crisis, and that the US must take action to prevent a future increase in drug trafficking through the region. The US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control released an assessment on organized crime and security in the Caribbean. One of the findings was that according to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Caribbean is the “most important destination for the laundering of cocaine-related trafficking income.” The net inflow of cocaine-related funds into the Caribbean would amount to some US$6 billion— equivalent to 2.3 percent of the Caribbean’s gross domestic product.
The issues have certainly not been lost on the Obama administration. At the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009, President Obama announced that security assistance to the Caribbean would be provided through a program known as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). This was a direct response to increased drug-related violence in the Caribbean and the “anticipation of a potential balloon effect of narcotics trafficking through the region.”
And so on the morning of November 7, 2012 the reelection of President Barack Obama to another four years in office gave law enforcement agencies in the Caribbean and certainly Saint Lucia hope that the fight against illicit drugs and related activities in the region would continue.
On that day too ACP Frances Henry of the RSLPF shared her thoughts on the continued assistance from the US as well as a major drug bust here.
“On Tuesday November 6 at about 2:30pm, police joint operations, inclusive of all operational units were conducting patrols within the territorial waters of Saint Lucia, particularly targeting the areas of the north,” Henry told reporters Wednesday. The operations uncovered the vessel “Targora” birthed at Rodney Bay which was intercepted by police and a search conducted. “During the search of that vessel the officers stumbled upon a compartment which they believed to have been a new fabrication,” the ACP added. This discovery she said led to the opening of a compartment where “large packages concealed in black plastic,” were found. “These packages having been retrieved and upon close examination revealed one hundred smaller packages,” ACP Henry related.
The vessel was then towed to the marine base where a further extensive search was done and the packages seized. Francis says the substance in the packages is believed to be cocaine with a weight of 109.6 kilos and a street value of EC$2.7 million. The lone occupant of the vessel, a sixty-six-year-old French national has been detained.
“We will do all that is necessary to keep our borders secure,” ACP Henry told reporters adding that the authorities recognized that the island had “very porous borders.” “And it is with the commitment, innovation and the uncompromising efforts of the police officers that we were able to reap such a great success. We want to give the assurance to Saint Lucians that no matter what the intervention is we are committed to keeping our country safe,” she stated Wednesday.
I asked the crime chief about where testing would be done of the “white substance” to ascertain what it was. “We have a forensic lab and that’s the initial point,” she responded.
Asked about the safekeeping of the “substance” since in times past several cases here have been dismissed due to the disappearance of drugs held in evidence under police watch, she had this to say; “It’s no secret that there has been some rascality taking place. Having reviewed our own operations and what obtained in the past you would recognize that in order even to be effective when it comes down to the analysis sometime the similarities and commonalities in the packages and the content that you would do random sampling, you would do a whole lot.
“In terms of the storage,  again that is handled by the lab. They would determine the manner in which things would be stored. The police are responsible for just ensuring we maintain the chain of custody when we do the handing over. But I am very confident that rascality in that particular instance is brought to a very minimum. In the recent past we have not been able to identify with that.”
And finally I asked the crime chief if she was also confident that with the reelection of President Obama that the US assistance to Saint Lucia in the fight against illegal drugs would be heightened. “In the ensuing year and last year the collaborations which we have seen with the Americans and RSLPF, we are benefactors of some of the initiatives particularly those under the CBSI. Saint Lucia, we received much help in terms of equipment, training and otherwise and even as we speak we are engaging in collaborative efforts in minimizing the scourge of crime. I think it augurs well for the Caribbean. It is a situation that we have received as much support and they too are just as committed as we are. And one way or another there is reciprocity. We may not be able to give them the sort of equipment, but there is a fair expectation that having pumped so much in terms of training and equipment that by doing that it enables us to increase our capacity, make us more efficient. In that way their borders are also secure because in most instances Saint Lucia is really the conduit to get to North America-particularly for the illicit drug trade.”
The United States authorities have been indicating that drug consumption in the region continues to be a major cause of the high crime and violence rates that plague many Caribbean nations.                 There are three main illicit pathways for narcotics in the Caribbean, the “Central Corridor” which consists primarily of cocaine leaving South America and flowing through Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas, the “Eastern Corridor,” made up of the eastern Caribbean including Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago where heroin and cocaine transit en route to Puerto Rico onto the US, and the “ABC Corridor” which includes Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.
According to the aforementioned September US Senate report three things are necessary to assist the Caribbean in the battle against illegal drugs. It is recommended that the US work with partner nations in the Caribbean to create or improve legal tools needed to combat drug trafficking, such as wiretapping and asset forfeiture laws. They are also advising that the Sensitive Investigative Units (SIUs) which are highly trained, vetted law enforcement units that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) trains and collaborates with in select countries throughout the world, be replicated in the Caribbean.  And finally they are recommending that their own laws be amended with regards to sharing information with Caribbean authorities with regards to deportees.
Each year, the United States deports thousands of Caribbean nationals for both criminal and immigration offenses. The only information accompanying these deportees is the reason for deportation and not whether that deportee has been convicted of a serious crime or has an extensive criminal record. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for deportees is forbidden by law from sharing further information without permission from the State or federal authority that holds the criminal records. And so, receiving countries are left unaware of many deportees’ criminal past which are now being linked to increase in crime, the drug trade and money laundering in Saint Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean.
In 2011 Saint Lucia had 29 deportees from the US with 10 of them being convicted criminals. The island presently has methods in place to monitor such individuals or the connections to the crime underworld.

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