The Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the U.S. Department of State has issued its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

The INCSR is the State Department’s annual report on illicit drug-control and money laundering activities in more than 140 countries. It has been described as the only comprehensive United States Government publication that addresses global illicit drug-control activities outside the United States. The report covers countries that range from major drug producing and drug-transit countries, where drug control is a critical element of national policy, to small countries or entities where drug issues or the capacity to deal with them are minimal.

The summary of the Report on The Bahamas indicates that the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas cooperates with the U.S. Government *”to interdict the flow of drugs through Bahamian territory, reduce the domestic demand for drugs within the Bahamian population, combat the exploitation of the Bahamian offshore financial sector by money launderers and other financial criminals, and to enhance the ability of the Bahamian judicial system to prosecute and convict drug traffickers and money launderers.”*

The Government of The Bahamas was credited with assigning a “high priority” to combating drug trafficking. Currently, it is working, with the assistance of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (OAS/CICAD), on a National Anti-Drug Plan (NADP). The Bureau’s release highlighted several Bahamian initiatives, including:

-the organisation of inter-departmental task forces to work on developing the various sections of its national counternarcotics plan;

-participation in an OAS/CICAD workshop for the design and preparation of a national counternarcotics plan (expected to be completed in 2002); and

-drafting of precursor chemical control legislation as required by the 1988 UN Drug Convention. That legislation is now under review before it is presented to the Parliament of The Bahamas.

Also noted was that The Bahamas has assumed complete responsibility for funding and procurement of a GCOB/USG-planned court case management software system (the Bahamas Integrated Justice Information System) that will make the Bahamas’ legal system virtually “paperless.”

The Bahamas is working with the United States to accomplish the five objectives of a continuing U.S.-Bahamas counternarcotics and law enforcement project designed to enhance the capability of the Bahamas to suppress criminal activity. These objectives are increased efficiency of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; money laundering prevention and control; support for Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) counternarcotics operations; enhancement of the Bahamian judicial system; and local drug demand reduction.

The U.S.-Bahamas Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) facilitates the bilateral exchange of information and evidence for use in criminal proceedings. United States requests under the MLAT seek and secure financial information and evidence for use in USG criminal investigations and prosecutions. It was noted that the separate unit within the Attorney General’s Office created to process international requests for assistance, including MLAT requests, has cleared the backlog of unexecuted MLAT requests from the United States and continues to facilitate the exchange of requests under the MLAT. The Bahamas also has MLATs with the UK and Canada.

As part of its annual report, the State Department released comparative charts on selected jurisdictions showing “Actions by Governments” on issues such as criminalising drug money laundering and beyond; reporting suspicious transactions; financial intelligence units; mutual legal assistance, among others. Also released was an “Offshore Financial Services” comparison chart. (see link below)