Today's Date: 25 June 2016
Last Updated: 11 January 2016 17:07:40 EST
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Cayman 'a hub' for cocaine trafficking, police say


To look at the Royal Cayman Islands Police crime stats for 2010, one might get the impression that drugs-related crime is going down.

Not so, Police Commissioner David Baines said last week. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

“There are indications now that are suggesting that the Cayman Islands is being used as a hub for the supply of significant quantities of cocaine,” Mr. Baines said during a press conference Wednesday. “The purity of the cocaine that we’ve recovered is about as pure as you’ll get. This is straight from the production areas, so we have got a problem with cocaine.”

Police crime reports for 2010 indicate that the number of drug arrests fell by nearly 47 per cent when compared to 2009.

There are two reasons for the decline, Mr. Baines said. First is that the RCIPS is now focusing on drug suppliers, not street-level possession arrests. “We had a particular undercover operation concerning drug supply all along the Seven Mile Beach area that took out not only those supplying at the front, but also the infrastructures behind them,” he said. “That’s going to be our tactical operation for the future.”

The second reason involves a lack of staff, particularly early in 2010, who were available to focus on drugs crime.

“In the beginning of the year, with the number of murders…a lot of our officers that we would have deployed on counter drugs operations were actually supporting us in terms of those murders,” said Chief Superintendent John Jones. “That did sort of sap our resources.”

It is a concern for local law enforcement on several levels, not least of which is that foreign jurisdictions have begun to look at the Cayman Islands as a potential supply centre, Commissioner Baines said.

“The fact that direct flights out of Cayman are being found to contain significant amounts of drugs…means that other law enforcement agents will be looking closely at us,” he said.

There were two significant seizures of cocaine in the UK last year; both involved direct flights from Cayman, Mr. Baines said. One shipment involved six kilogrammes of cocaine, another involved a shipment of 10 kilogrammes. Assuming the current street price per kilo in the UK to be $55,000, the larger shipment would have been worth a half-million dollars or more, police said.

Details of both cases remained scant, but the Caymanian Compass has since learned that a local customs officer was suspended in connection with one of the cocaine shipments. The officer’s ultimate status with the customs service has never been made public.

Later in the year, Mr. Baines said, 44 kilogrammes were recovered after the drugs washed ashore in East End. It is likely that those drugs came either from an air drop or a boat, the commissioner said. The drugs were burned at the George Town landfill days after their seizure.

“Those are just the issues that we have recovered,” Mr. Baines said. “It’s quite apparent to us that there’s increasing levels of cocaine available and being distributed on the Islands.”

Another area of concern for police is the level of violence connected with some recent robberies and burglaries where there would appear to be no reason for it.

Chief Superintendent Jones said, based on his more than 30 years of law enforcement experience in the UK, excessive violence is often a sign of crack cocaine use. “Some of the offences that we’ve seen, aggravated burglaries [involving] elderly people [as victims]….why do people need to use that much violence against frail, elderly people?”

Mr. Baines also noted the violence in some of the business robberies that were committed for relatively small amounts of money. He said police are looking into some of the cases that appeared to have been done for the reasons of gang initiation or training.

“That may be some explanation for small amounts of cash being targeted,” he said.

Other heists reported during the last year appeared to be “inside jobs”, the commissioner said. He said police met with local business owners who collect large amounts of cash and use staff members to transport the money to banks to discuss proper procedures to secure the money.

“If you have cash handling procedures…be sure that you change them regularly,” he said, adding that business owners should thoroughly vet individuals they hire.

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