It is a matter of record that there are a few cases of illegal drug possession and trafficking in Barbados where the street value of contraband seized exceeded millions of dollars. Some of those cases have remained in limbo for reasons not only restricted to systemic failures and delays but inclusive of the disappearance of files and other conveniently peculiar occurrences.
It is also a matter of record that there have been instances where some cases were adjudicated and the punishment meted out was noticeably light for reasons best known to those responsible, whether still alive or offering explanation beyond the pearly gates for their earthly actions.
The fight against the illegal drug trade in Barbados continues to be a losing battle, whether officialdom wants to accept that or not. Much of this is due to the tentacles of this scourge on society reaching far and wide and enriching many whose opulent lifestyles have no genesis in legitimate employment or whose subsequent ‘legitimate’ business activities have been facilitated by money well laundered. It does not take a Harvard education, or one at the University of the West Indies, to reach a determination that for the illegal drug trade in Barbados to thrive, as it is doing, that the persons who play a significant role are not all the cabinet-maker’s son or the butcher’s proxy. It is often said that every drug seizure is but a microcosm of what is reaching our communities, facilitated not only by men of straw but by men of means. It is so in every jurisdiction where the drug trade exists as evidenced by the arrest and conviction of customs officials, politicians, judges, magistrates, lawyers, police, soldiers, business owners, boat owners and the like, across the globe.
Depending on one’s degree of naiveté, Barbadians can determine whether they believe the country in which they reside is impervious to such vulnerabilities. However, there are those who will remain naïve although some from the foregoing list have already reached our own law courts and in a few instances have been convicted. But for a trade that ten years ago saw cocaine being sold for as much as BDS$20 000 per kilogramme or as much as BDS$20 for one small crack cocaine ‘rock’, and which has increased exponentially over the years, finding willing participants for the ‘business’ is not the most difficult undertaking.
In Barbados, there have been situations that have flown under the radar, forgotten through the passage of time, or just ignored because the average Barbadian was not impacted by its occurrence. More than 20 years ago a Swan Street businessman was held at a Christ Church hotel with a suitcase of illegal drugs. That individual was charged and appeared before the law courts. It is anyone’s guess what has become of the case. Suffice to say that the individual involved has paid no debt to society. Years later two brothers enjoying the comforts of their adopted home, were nabbed with a major quantity of drugs. Following their trial and conviction, rather than the imprisonment, revocation of citizenship and deportation which their actions merited, a late official saw it fit only to give them a fine that made a mockery of the haul for which they were apprehended. Needless to say, a few short years later they were back before the courts for a similar offence.
About a decade ago a young businessman was charged in connection with a container of drugs at the Bridgetown Port. The drugs had a street value of more than BDS$11 million. The individual at the time was already on bail for possession of a firearm and other serious offences. Justice still waits to be served in that matter, if it ever will be. Whither the case?
One would have thought that Barbados’ minuscule size would have made getting a handle on the drug trade much easier than jurisdictions such as Colombia, Mexico and the United States of America. Everyone basically knows everyone. Barbadians know who is the plumber next door, the accountant, the taxi driver, journalist, customs officer, and they also know who is the dope peddler. Yet some dealers thrive in the business for many years without being brought to justice, other than occasionally by their competitor’s bullet.
We often wonder if there are persons within our law enforcement agencies who have the intestinal fortitude to pursue those hiding in plain sight who might be the main financiers of this blight on Barbadian society. Are there individuals in our judicial system willing to track these vultures even if they have title in hand or in name? Do we have officials with the aptitude to follow the money and possessions and adopt strategies that do not only involve traditional surveillance and seizure of drugs and individuals? Wealth generation without visible or known legitimate means of income, can be linked to non-payment of taxes and be grounds for intense probe and possible prosecution.
But alas, there is no surer sign that we are losing the battle against the illegal drug trade than when convicted or reputed drug dealers can be so emboldened to boast openly of their connections to politicians and others in lofty positions and demonstrate it with the brandishing of approved invitations to national, political events.
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