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2003-03-07 01:21:33

US: Govt Must Remove 'Corrupt' RBDF Officers

Several RBDF officers are not allowed into the US because they are suspected of criminal involvement.

Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers involved in a 1992 missing drugs incident should be prosecuted, a US international drug control report has concluded.

"The government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas took no action in 2002 on long-standing United States government suggestions for establishing an administrative mechanism or internal affairs unit to deal with corrupt members of the RBDF. Currently, the only way to remove such officers is through conviction in a civilian court of law," according to the 2002 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

Released by the U.S. Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs on Monday, the document stated that in contrast to the Royal Bahamas Police Force's reputation for not tolerating internal corruption, there is widespread public perception that narcotics corruption is condoned within the RBDF.

The government of The Bahamas announced that it was satisfied with a 1992 police inquiry into the disappearance of a portion of a "controlled delivery" of cocaine while in custody of crewmen from the RBDF vessel Inagua, the report stated, but the investigation failed to identify which crewmen were responsible for theft.

"One Opposition member of parliament, a former Attorney General in the previous FNM government, called on the government to complete the flawed investigation into the Inagua incident. A number of RBDF members remain permanently ineligible for U.S. visas and United States government training, because of a reasonable suspicion of their involvement in the affair," the report documented, further stating that the "integration of RBDF personnel into the Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) and the sharing of sensitive law enforcement with the RBDF, remains problematic due to corruption concerns."

The in-depth documentation said the Bahamas government's plans to have the Royal Bahamas Defence Force take a greater role in interdicting maritime drug smuggling, bore little fruit in 2002.

It noted that the RBDF's own fast response boats, forfeited "go-fast" drug smuggling vessels and were frequently out of service and not able to respond to any of OPBAT's requests for assistance in pursuits.

In response to charges of "slow response" by the RBDF when asked for assistance by U.S authorities, Minister of National Security and Deputy Prime Minister, Cynthia Pratt, said in the House of Assembly Wednesday that the Defence Force has other roles to play besides drug interdiction. The unit is also responsible for border protection, which involves being on the lookout for poachers and illegal immigrants, she said.

"If they are busy doing something else protecting the border and there is a matter that the United States need help with interdicting a boat with drugs, they can't leave this here (RBDF duties) and go all the way down there to deal with that (U.S. matters). They have to deal with their business first then leave to assist. We only have a certain amount," she stated.

"It's not that the RBDF is slow in responding because they don't come when called by the U.S., but have other responsibilities," the DPM told Parliamentarians.

The United States' sole concern is drug interdiction, Mrs Pratt said, and "They have said that to me. They are not willing to assist us with illegal migrants, no sir, therefore we have to do what we have to do, as we are responsible to the Bahamian people."

By Tamara McKenzie, The Nassau Guardian

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