(KAIETEUR NEWS) -President Donald Ramotar yesterday vowed a tougher war on drugs, which he says breeds money laundering and corruption in Guyana.
Colombia, where the President spent the last few days discussing greater cooperation with 33 other countries in the Americas, is thought to be one of the main producers of the drugs that flow into Guyana’s borders and shipped to buyers in other parts of the world. Ramotar said that Guyana’s drug trafficking results in several problems for Guyana, including money-laundering and corruption. But a greater problem, he suggested, is getting the hard facts on the trail of the dirty money. Ramotar says he is keen on beefing up the Guyana Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). “..I think it needs to have a bigger investigative arm to try to track where the money is going…we need to examine it and beef those things up,” Ramotar told Kaieteur News. He said his government would be looking to the Americans “to see what models can be used.” Recently, Guyana and the US signed an agreement to establish and support projects aimed at countering money-laundering and narcotics operation over the next three years. The FIU and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) will be supported through the initiative. In an address to the VI Summit of the Americas, Ramotar said that traffickers in narcotics have been using poverty as an ally in the trade “that has done tremendous harm to our hemisphere and the world at large.”
He said that countries in the hemisphere need very close coordination and cooperation in fighting the drug trade. “Experience has shown that as soon as we choke off the trade in one country it finds new areas to carry on. That is why we have no alternative but to work together to really make an impact. “Needless to say, the narco trade has also given rise to gun running, trafficking in persons, corruption and some of the most heinous crimes known to mankind,” the President stated. While the US says the cocaine trafficked through Guyana originates in Colombia, Ramotar said he isn’t too sure about that and credits Bogota for having made progress in fighting the scourge. He said that it is America’s efforts to squeeze the drug trade in Colombia that has created the “balloon effect” causing drugs to be trafficked through Guyana and the Caribbean. The US recently renewed calls for the Guyana government to enforce laws against money laundering and financial crimes. In the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), the US State Department has noted that while Guyana is a party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, it is yet to fully implement its provisions, “such as seizure of property obtained through corruption.” The report noted that as a matter of policy, the Government of Guyana does not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. “News media, however, report on allegations of corruption; some reports have implicated police personally in stealing drugs from seizures, while others point to high government officials who are not investigated and thus go unpunished.” The report stated that Guyana continues to be a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and West Africa with cocaine from Colombia smuggled to Venezuela and onward to Guyana by sea (fishing vessels, bulk cargo vessels and tug vessels) or air. Because of Guyana’s porous borders, smuggling is also conducted by land from Brazil and Suriname into Guyana, the report noted, adding that once cocaine arrives in Guyana, it is often concealed in legitimate commodities and smuggled via commercial maritime vessels, air shipments, human couriers or the postal services. The report said that drug trafficking organisations based in Guyana are beginning to use neighboring Suriname as a major distribution hub where Suriname is used as a stash location and distribution country for drugs entering Guyana. The report noted that The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (AMLCFTA), the Interception of Communications Bill and the Criminal Procedure Bill were designed to enhance both the investigative capability of law enforcement authorities and prosecutors’ ability to obtain convictions in drug related cases. However, in 2011, there were no convictions under these laws, “and there is an apparent lack of political will to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking organizations.” The government of Guyana signed a maritime counter-drug bilateral agreement with the United States in 2001, but has yet to take the necessary domestic action to bring the agreement into effect, the report noted. Approximately 352 kilogrammes of cocaine and 393 kilogrammes of marijuana were seized in 2011.