Sun | May 26, 2019

Ja remains major source of drug trafficking, says US

Published:Tuesday | April 2, 2019 | 12:22 AMJerome Reynolds/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean source country of marijuana and a significant transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets. Further, traffickers export Jamaica-grown marijuana to other Caribbean countries in return for illicit firearms and other contraband.

That is according to the latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report by the United States (US) Department of State.

“Jamaica’s geographic position in the western Caribbean and its difficult-to-patrol coastline, high volume of tourist travel, and status as a major containerised cargo trans-shipment hub contribute to its use for drug trafficking via commercial shipping, small watercraft, air freight, human couriers, and private aircraft,” the report noted.

It said that the US and Jamaican governments continue to successfully utilise bilateral legal assistance and extradition treaties, as well as agreements on maritime law enforcement cooperation and sharing forfeited assets.

Additionally, it noted that both countries made progress in 2018 towards an agreement to formalise information-sharing between customs agencies.

The report pointed out that despite some progress, Jamaica’s drug-control efforts face significant challenges from corruption, organised crime, gang activity, resource constraints, and an inefficient criminal-justice system.

‘Overburdened’ judicial system

“Jamaica’s efforts to bring traffickers to justice are hobbled by an under-resourced, overburdened judicial system. Repeated delays and trial postponements contribute to significant case backlogs; frustration among police, witnesses, jurors, and the public; and impunity for many offenders.

“In response, the Jamaican Government passed a plea-bargain reform bill in 2017, drafted with US support and designed to incentivise, plea-bargaining to increase the courts’ efficiency and reduce the backlog of criminal cases,” noted the report.

The document said that cooperation between Jamaica and the US related to drug trafficking and transnational crime continued to be strong in 2018, as evidenced by the high number of high-level extraditions of wanted criminals from the US to Jamaica.

“Progress against drug trafficking will significantly depend on efforts to combat corruption and strengthen the judicial system so traffickers are held criminally accountable.

“New legislation to create an independent anti-corruption investigation agency and US-supported programs to weed out corrupt officials may represent a step forward in this regard,” said the report.

Last Friday, 109.2kg of cocaine was seized at Port Bustamante in Kingston. Reports from the narcotics police are that about 11:50 p.m., a container was searched and four duffle bags containing 95 parcels of white, powdery substance resembling cocaine were found. The drug has an estimated street value of $20 million. No one was arrested in relation to the seizure.

jerome.reynolds@gleanerjm.com