Arubans Follow the Money Trail. Look at who’s gettingwealthy and you’ve found the ones benefitting from theDrug trade and money laundering for the Cartels that ishappening right now in the Dutch Antilles.Colombian drug lords bring terror to Caribbean paradiseLA Times-Washington Post News ServiceBASSETERRE, St. Kitts - With its palm trees, pastelgingerbread houses and friendly shopkeepers andhoteliers, this tropical port long has been a haven forBritish and U.S. tourists.But in recent years, its Caribbean calm has been brokenby a laundry list of violent events: A former U.N.ambassador disappeared and was presumed dead; policefound the body of the scion of a politically powerfulfamily stuffed in the trunk of a burned-out car; theinspector investigating the cases was killed in broaddaylight.
Scotland Yard was brought in to try to solve thosemysteries and ease the ensuing political crisis.But police now believe the three men were all victims ofa growing wave of violence and corruption sparked bythe new presence here of Colombian drug lords.Confronted with intensified interdiction efforts in theBahamas and at the U.S.-Mexico border - and with thegrowing distrust of their Mexican allies - Colombiancartel members have pushed their drug trafficking deepinto the eastern Caribbean, experts say.About one-third of the cocaine available in the UnitedStates and one-half to two-thirds of that sold in Europe -hundreds of tons of the drug - is shipped through the tinyislands of this region, according to U.S. and European lawenforcement officials.
Traffickers in small planes and swift boats are followingthe necklace of islands from the Colombian coasteastward to the edge of the Caribbean and then on tothe U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, officials say. Oncein U.S. territory, they can move drugs to the mainlandwith no fear of customs inspections.Similarly, former and current Dutch, British and Frenchcolonies are providing the cartels with easy access toEurope.The traffickers are inflicting on the region whatCaribbean security expert Ivelaw Griffith calls thepackage: They are blamed for increases in moneylaundering, addiction and corruption so profound thatthey threaten to put criminals in charge of thegovernment and the economy.
This is probably the best scenario a drug trafficker couldinvent, said SandorCalvani, who heads the U.N. DrugControl Programs Caribbean office. In the south, bigproducing countries.In the north, big consumingcountries. And in between, 1,200 islands organized in 29countries with four different (government) systems thatdo not communicate among themselves and (with) aninfinite number of coves and small beaches.Richard Thomas, the top British official in the region,compares the upsurge in narcotics trafficking today tothe perceived threat of communism that provoked theU.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983. In the intervening 14years, that threat has dwindled to almost nothing, butthe threat to stability is now drug trafficking, he said.The number of tourists complaining that they have beenapproached by drug dealers in Barbados has quadrupledover the past six months, Calvani said.
The U.S. State Department has reported that there isextensive money laundering in Aruba, the island closestto Colombia. Officials also note an increase in bothcocaine and heroin trafficking there. A U.N. internaldocument says that 75 percent of all arrests in Aruba arenow drug-related.Recently published Dutch intelligence reports citeworrying indications that Aruban democracy is beingeroded by money laundering linked to the drug trade - anallegation denied by the Aruban government.As more Caribbean countries try to develop offshorebanking, the threat of drug-related money launderingwill increase, law enforcement authorities warn.Accustomed to dealing with nothing more threateningthan drunken tourists or rowdy cricket fans, police inmany of the small Caribbean isles are now facing drug-related crimes that could provide the fodder forHollywood mysteries.
The day after Dole Chadee, an alleged drug lord inTrinidad and Tobago, was ordered to stand trial formurder last year, the key witness against him - who hadbeen in a protection program for two years - was killed.Law enforcement officials said the witness death wasjust one of 30 slayings linked to the organization run byChadee, who has been convicted of four killings.But such convictions are a rarity, especially as drug-linkedbribery and intimidation of witnesses, jurors and judgesincrease, experts say.They also note that it can be difficult to bring suspects tojustice because of the island mentality - the reality thatin small Caribbean communities; the residents all knowone another and distrust outsiders.
Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, shaken by the high-profilekillings and the disappearance in 1994, police frustrationis especially high. Officers formally have charged half adozen individuals in the killings but have watched as thecases collapsed in bizarre judicial circumstances.We have known who committed the murders for thepast two years, asserted Brian Reynolds, the ScotlandYard inspector called in to clean up St. Kitts corruption-riddled, 574-officer police force.Police have not been able to persuade a local judge tohear a case against six suspects. The one man who wasput on trial - accused of killing the police inspector - wasfreed after two juries deadlocked.British police have acknowledged that in the killing of theman found in the car trunk - the deputy prime ministersson - they were not able to gather evidence asthoroughly as they would have back home.
The car containing Vincent Morris body - and that of hisgirlfriend, Joan Walsh - was found hidden in a field of 7-foot-tall sugar cane. Police normally would have waitedto move the bodies until a pathologist arrived fromLondon the next day to examine the scene. But severalhundred islanders were threatening to burn the canefield, forcing authorities to move the car immediately,possibly destroying valuable evidence.Apparently, the crowd had moved upon the field becausethe suspects in the pairs killing had been arrested - andseveral of them are popular figures in Basseterre, thecapital.Police never got a chance to lay out their theories andevidence in Morris killing because the prosecutor in thecase, who could not be reached for comment, didntshow up for the trial. Opposition newspapers claim hewas corrupted, and other observers suspect he may havebeen intimidated.
In the end, the suspects were released.But some were rearrested last year at the request of U.S.authorities who wanted them extradited to face drug-trafficking charges in Miami.After their arrests, flyers and graffiti appeared all overtown denouncing U.S. imperialism.Police here were frustrated when a magistrate refused toextradite the men. That frustration deepened inFebruary, when a U.S. jury, hearing the same evidencepresented to the magistrate, sent one - who had fled toMiami and was arrested there - to prison for life.As for the government, it cannot do anything about thehomicide cases, because as in your country, thejudiciary here is independent, noted Prime MinisterDenzil Douglas. He also insisted that St. Kitts and Nevis is
doing all it can to combat drugs - fully cooperating withU.S. authorities and tightening money-laundering laws.Still, its mixed counter-narcotics results show the uphillbattle the small countries of the eastern Caribbean face,diplomats and law enforcement experts agree.This is not the gulf war, expert Calvani said, referring tothe U.S.-led alliances quick defeat of Iraq in 1991. It isnot something that we are going to win next year or inthe next five years. ... Now is the time when significantdecisions of strategy will affect what will be the result inthe next five to 10 years.