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DEA still probing drug bust
The two-month-old multi-million dollar cocaine bust may have disappeared from local front pages, but is still engaging the attention of the United States investigators. In a brief response to questions from the Sunday Guardian, the US Embassy stated that it cannot give any updates on the investigation as its policy does not allow any comment on continuing investigations. “I'm afraid that we cannot comment on ongoing investigations,” public affairs officer Alexander McLaren said in a brief email exchange.
But while both local and international officials remained mum on the investigations, since March last year, the United States Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs published an International Narcotics Control Strategy Report that highlighted the major drug issues facing the country, including “insufficient support from political leadership” and “porous borders.”
The report stated: “T&T’s location, porous borders, and direct transportation routes to Europe, West Africa, Canada, and the United States make it an ideal location for cocaine and marijuana transshipment.” It also noted that local drug enforcement officials face “considerable challenges and insufficient support from political leadership.” The report stated that while drug production and use in T&T centres on marijuana, “other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, solvents, pharmaceuticals and ecstasy, are also available.”
The US State Department described the Government’s struggle to curb the drug trade as “robust and continuing.” “But overall seizures in 2012 were down from 2011,” it said adding that “sustainability, corruption, and gaps in legislative and organisational implementation remain challenges to the country’s efforts to curb the trafficking.”
No major convictions or extraditions
The US State Department report noted that narcotics prosecutions, convictions, and extraditions “continued to remain low” relative to the scale of drug trafficking in T&T. “While 4,027 people were arrested for possession and another 468 for trafficking, only 58 small scale traffickers were convicted during the year,” it stated.
“Additional reforms are necessary to expedite case prosecution, revise outdated laws, and establish an evidence-based criminal justice system as fundamental prerequisites for raising conviction rates and deterring traffickers. “Insufficient interagency cooperation and information sharing remain concerns. The Government of T&T should take concrete steps to address these issues in order to improve the country’s narcotics control efforts in the coming years,” it said.