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Escape to the US

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Criminals buy expensive boat passage to America

Jamaican criminals, including suspected major drug and gang leaders, have found a new route to flee local law-enforcement agencies and make their way to the United States (US) illegally.

A Sunday Gleaner probe has uncovered a scheme where some local fishermen, working with cronies in The Bahamas and Miami, are selling safe passage to the US to some of the country's most notorious criminals.

"We are aware that a senior member of the notorious One Order Gang which operates out of Spanish Town, St Catherine, is now in Miami through that route," one police source told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We are also probing intelligence that some of the 10 persons reported missing at sea recently were making that trip as well," the source added.

This is not the first time that local fishermen have forged criminal relationships with counterparts in other countries in the region. The very lucrative drugs-for-guns trade between Jamaica and Haiti for years ensured a steady supply of weapons to the island's gangs.

The 106-mile corridor between the coasts of Freeport, in The Bahamas, and Miami in the United States provides cover for criminals, as many legal travellers regularly make this trip between the two countries on legitimate business. This is the area where 10 Jamaicans disappeared in March.

That area has become a popular and lucrative route to illegally enter the US.

The Sunday Gleaner understands that for US$5,000 (J$435,000), persons are smuggled to the porous Miami coastline aboard various kinds of shipping vessels, some of them reportedly owned and operated by Americans.

deportee makes two trips

A Jamaican man, who admitted that he was deported from the US last year, told The Sunday Gleaner he has already made the trip twice.

He said his friends in the US gave him a "link" with a man who owns a house and a yacht in Miami and who makes frequent trips to The Bahamas.

"You see da bredda deh? A no any and anybody him carry ... no matter how much money you a give him," the man said, making reference to "a white boy" who took him to Miami aboard his yacht.

The informant said initially the man refused to take him, but relented after talking with his cronies.

"From me reach pan (the yacht) me just go downstairs go lay dung till it reach a Miami and me friend dem come get me," he disclosed.

Last week, officials of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) team said they were unable to comment, while local police were also tight-lipped.

According to the ICE press officer in Miami, an official would be available to speak with our news team on Monday.

Officially, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was willing to only confirm that it had received reports that the 10 Jamaicans had set off by boat from The Bahamas on March 9 when they went missing.

A statement from the ministry said relatives have come forward to identify seven of the missing men.

However, an official in the foreign affairs ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our news team that, "these kinds of trips are more common than we know, just that this time something went wrong ... it appears that way".

In the meantime, residents in one St Andrew community where two of the missing men lived also declared that this is a well-known route into the US.

The residents charged that on more than one occasion, persons who collect money to transport Jamaicans to the US through The Bahamas have turned on their passengers at sea and robbed them.