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United States aware of smuggling route via Bahamas

Published:Tuesday | May 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The United States (US) Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit (ICE) has confirmed reports that Jamaicans are entering that country illegally through a sea route from Jamaica to The Bahamas and on to Miami.

Carmen Pino, assistant special agent at ICE, yesterday told The Gleaner that it is a known fact that Jamaicans and people of other nationalities are using small boats and sometimes yachts to enter the US illegally.

Pino said while The Bahamas might be a launch pad into the US because of its proximity, other territories in the region are also used by people involved in this illegal activity.

"It depends on who is involved and where is their base," said Pino, even as he refused to comment on reports that 10 missing Jamaicans were using The Bahamas route to attempt to enter the US illegally.

According to Pino, the illegal entry into the US by sea or land is a major issue facing ICE.

"Border integrity is a serious issue ... . We work with partners, including Homeland Security, to address this issue."

Pino said ICE also tries to deter people from making what is a dangerous trek by boat, while seeking to prevent illegal entry into the US by patrolling the borders or checking vessels at sea.

Last week, The Gleaner confirmed that major drug lords, gang leaders and deportees have been paying up to US$5,000 (J$435,000) per person for a long boat ride from Jamaica to The Bahamas then to Miami.

Dudus refused route

Sources say two senior members of the Spanish Town, St Catherine-based One Order Gang recently used that route to flee local law-enforcement agencies after they were placed on the police's most-wanted list.

Unconfirmed reports have since suggested that the escape route was offered to Christopher 'Dudus' Coke after the US sent the Jamaican Government an extradition warrant for him.

According to sources close to west Kingston, where Coke ruled a massive transnational criminal network, the strongman refused the escape route which would have seen him out of Jamaica before the extradition warrant was signed.