Forget the tourists, there is something much more lucrative afoot. It is whispered that recently cocaine barons have injected US$400 million into a group within the Vincentian government for help with setting up an improved link into the US of South American cocaine. There are five areas of concern for the South American investors.
1. for the SVG ruling regime to be kept in power at any cost
2. the completion of Argyle Airport
3. the control of the abandoned fishery units at Bequia and Owia
4. tight control and implication of the police and coast guard
5. control of a working shipyard for the secret alteration of internal structures of vessels
6. building of a new shipping container port and facility
The whole operation is compartmentalized so as no group or individual within the grouping knows everything. Those involved are high ranking Vincentian government officials, Venezuelans, Panamanians and, most importantly, Colombians.
According to fishermen, Venezuelans have already inspected the fishery installations with the view of acquiring them. It is alleged that Venezuelans are involved in the new lease of the Ottley Hall shipyard complex. Venezuela is involved with building our airport at Argyle.
The history of cocaine trafficking from South America to the United States has been well documented. The flow peaked in the 1980s. During most of this time, Colombian traffickers dominated the market, and they often preferred to use the Caribbean as a transit area. Due to vigorous law enforcement, the Colombian groups were weakened in the 1990s, and Mexican groups progressively assumed control of most of the trafficking chain. During the 2000s, the Caribbean and particularly Trinidad and St Vincent and the Grenadines have played a major part of the new millennium’s organized cocaine business.
Direct shipments by air to Mexico have also been favoured, but with stopovers in Central America mainly due to the need of refueling has made it increasingly difficult. After 2000, and especially after 2006, improved law enforcement increased the risks of shipping directly by sea to Mexico. Consequently, Central America took on new importance as a transit and storage area, and parts of the Caribbean such as St Vincent and the Grenadines were activated.
In the mid-1980s, over 75% of the cocaine seized between South America and the United States was taken in the Caribbean by British navel patrols, and very little was seized in Central America. By 2010, the opposite was true: over 80% was seized in Central America, with less than 10% being taken in the Caribbean. The bulk of the cocaine seized in recent years in the Caribbean has been taken by the Dominican Republic, which is also currently a transit country for the European market.
But all that is about to change once again, with St Vincent and the Grenadines becoming the major player in sea and air transport via sea containers and donkey vessels for transit to Europe and the US.
Trans-shipments to SVG by air will generally take off just across the border from Columbia, in Venezuelan territory. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on the Atlantic will be the last stop before the product enters the Eastern Caribbean and SVG waters.
Honduras’ Manuel Zelaya was believed to be deeply involved in the cocaine business. In 2008, shortly after joining ALBA, Zelaya voiced his desire to convert the US airbase at Soto Cano into a civilian airport. The base has been used for many years by the Pentagon drug surveillance flights, and had housed thousands of US troops in the 1980s.
Soon after the June overthrow in Honduras of Zelaya and his government, the coup-installed, de facto government launched a vigorous PR campaign against ousted president Manuel Zelaya, accusing him of being involved in drug trafficking. The campaign began with a formal request to Interpol for an international arrest warrant on Zelaya and many of his officials. In addition to the usual charges of supposed constitutional violations, the request said the Zelaya administration had been involved in the illicit drug trade. Interpol declined to issue the warrant, citing sovereign immunity, and did not address the allegations. Still, linking Zelaya to drugs remained a prominent feature of the coup government’s propaganda during its seven-month reign.
ALBA featured quite strongly in this as well, demanding that Zelaya be reinstated as president of Honduras, expelling Honduras from ALBA membership when the new government refused to reinstate him.
The coup-installed foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, claimed the government had proof that Venezuelan planes loaded with cocaine and cash had landed in Honduras with the Zelaya government’s knowledge.
“Every night, three or four Venezuelan-registered planes land without the permission of appropriate authorities and brought thousands of kilos of cocaine and packages of money each containing a million used US dollars in cash that are the fruit of drug trafficking,” Minister Ortez told ‘CNN Television en Español’. “We have proof of all of this. Neighboring governments have it. The DEA has it.”
Picking up on this, the de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, remarked later in July that “during our short period of being in power, no small plane has landed in the country loaded with drugs, which used to happen frequently.” That turned out to be untrue and the trade continued even under the new government.
The FARC rebels in Colombia, who were backed and trained by Cuba for years, are main players in the international cocaine trade. The US government said it had reason to believe that Zelaya’s son was involved with them.
Not only did ALBA demand that Zelaya be reinstated as president, Cuba and Venezuela became involved in some dirty tactics to try and destroy the new regime. On July 17, the Havana-based website ‘Cuba Debate’ published a scanned version of what purported to be an undated document from the Honduran Defense Ministry that names one “Roberto Michelleti Bain” [with an evident misspelling] on a list of several Honduran nationals with international drug-trafficking connections. His “connection” is named as the Calí cartel, and his area of operations is named as Yoro. In the 1980s, when the Calí cartel was at its peak of power, Micheletti was a member of the local council in Honduras’s Yoro Department, which is near the Caribbean coast in the north of the country. He later successfully ran for Congress from Yoro.
Jean-Guy Allard, the Cuban author of the article, did not answer emails to clarify where he acquired the document implicating Micheletti in drug trafficking. [Jean-Guy Allard is a Canadian journalist who, as editor and reporter, worked for Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec from 1971 to 2000. He retired to Cuba, and now writes for the Cuban newspaper Granma.] This did not stop others from the left-leaning nations of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) from repeating the accusations. In August, José Vicente Rangel, who has served in various high level posts within the government of Hugo Chávez, made reference to the Cuban report on Venezuelan TV.
The US cut trade preferences with Bolivia -- a move that has cost thousands of jobs in the country's export industries -- on the grounds the government of Evo Morales was doing nothing to combat coca cultivation.
Meanwhile, ALBA leaders under the control of Hugo Chavez said the drug spin about Zelaya was in fact, in reverse: “It is the drug smugglers themselves”, he maintained, “together with the United States CIA, the Pentagon, and Southern Command, who are really behind the coup in Honduras.” The ALBA membership stood firmly behind that statement and among that membership was St Vincent and the Grenadines.
According to the UN, latest seizures in the mid-Atlantic confirm the growing involvement of Eastern European trafficking groups. Sharp increase of seizures of multi-tonne cocaine loads on pleasure craft bound for Europe from the Eastern Caribbean testify to the increasing capacities of law enforcement agencies. On 23 May, Portuguese Polícia Judiciária searched a 24-metre pleasure boat that had arrived at Faial island a couple of days before. Hidden inside a secret compartment in the side walls of the boat was 1,150 kg of cocaine. According to a spokesman from the Portuguese police, the seizure had been made possible by intelligence from the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre, an EU funded platform based in Lisbon. The Serbian crew was arrested.
It is the latest in a string of successful interceptions of vessels crossing the Atlantic from the Eastern Caribbean to Europe. Last month they reported the seizure of the luxury sailing yacht “Silandra” by the French navy in mid-Atlantic, with 2.2 tons of cocaine. Since then there has been the interception of the sailing yacht “Amsterdammer” by Spanish police and Customs near the Azores. The boat with a crew of three Serbians was carrying over a tonne of cocaine. A week later, on 20th May, Spanish police and naval forces stopped the fishing vessel “Walrus” 1,450 km from the Canaries. A mixed crew from the Netherlands and Cap Verde had 1,950 kg of cocaine.
The rising incidence of maritime trafficking reinforces the importance of coordinating existing European assets and strengthening the capacities of partners. The current extension of SEACOP III project into the Eastern Caribbean will significantly enhance the defensive capability against maritime trafficking threats. What remains to be assessed is the increasing prominence of Serbian criminal groups. The rising profile of Eastern European criminal groups reported from both Colombia and Argentina suggests the growing importance of Eastern Europe as a new trafficking hub for cocaine into European markets.
All of those vessels passed through St Vincent and the Grenadines waters, some visited and some lingered and loitered for weeks.
UN News Briefing 18 May 2015:
Diosdado Cabello, Venezuela’s parliamentary speaker has denied involvement in cocaine smuggling, following US reports that he is under investigation for trafficking and money laundering.
A plane carrying over a tonne of cocaine crashed into the Caribbean following a pursuit by the Colombian air force.
The use of caterpillars which feed on coca plants has been touted as a replacement measure for spraying crops with glyphosate in Colombia.
Ecuadorian police have arrested eight people believed to be part of an international drug-trafficking ring, after seizing 253kg of cocaine on its way to China, reportedly from Colombia.
1 tonne of cocaine has been seized from a yacht in Spanish waters, following a joint operation by Serbian, Spanish, and Croatian law enforcement agencies. It is believed to have been en route to Western Europe, from South America.
Research from the University of Surrey, UK, has demonstrated that tests for cocaine use can be conducted, just by looking at a person’s fingerprints. The test can differentiate between people who have ingested cocaine and those who have just touched it.
Raheem Bailey, head of an international drug smuggling gang, has been jailed in the UK for 15 years for smuggling over £5 million worth of cocaine into the country, from the Caribbean, hidden in children’s toys and jigsaws.
The Organised Crime Portfolio research project, funded by the EU, has found a key distinction between the structures of organized crime groups in the UK, compared to socio-geographically based ones found in places such as Italy.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration
estimates smugglers have increased shipments of cocaine through the Caribbean from about 60 tons to about 100 tons in the past several years. But it's difficult to measure how much cocaine gets through the dragnet of surveillance planes, US Coast Guard ships and other detection efforts.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CMC) -- United States law enforcement authorities say they have seized 989 kilogrammes of cocaine on a vessel carrying a St Vincent and the Grenadines flag
in the Caribbean Sea.
The US Coast Guard said it collaborated with the US Customs and Border Protection agency, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security investigators in the operation that also netted 13 men, after detaining a delivery vessel and coastal freighter about eight miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Two Venezuelan nationals were charged "with conspiracy to import the aforementioned cocaine shipment", the Coast Guard said, adding that the cocaine has an estimated street value of US$29 million.
It said that the other suspects detained on the 267-foot St Vincent and Grenadines flag coastal freighter Atlantic VII were from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Peru, Panama and Ecuador. They were also charged with conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the United States.
World Index, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: transshipment point for South American drugs destined for the US and Europe
June 29, 2013: American drug dealer jailed for importing cocaine from St Vincent
October 31, 2013: 13 kilos of cocaine found on vessel bound for St Vincent
. Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday seized TT$5 million dollars (approx. US$833,000) worth of cocaine aboard a ship bound for St Vincent and the Grenadines and then Europe.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has also become a storage and trans-shipment point for narcotics
, mostly cocaine, transferred from Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
Drug smugglers jailed in Britain over £90m cocaine haul
. A gang of drug smugglers were jailed for sailing a record £90 million cocaine consignment into Britain from Bequia an island in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
17 April 2014: CCN TV News
; A St Vincent national is in police custody after an estimated 4.5 kilogrammes of cocaine, with a street value of $2,111,200, was seized yesterday afternoon at the Caricom Wharf of the port of Port-of-Spain Trinidad and Tobago.
Ruben Morgan, a relative of attorney general Judith Jones-Morgan
? He was given a diplomatic passport in 2001 [following the election of the ULP and Ralph Gonsalves appointed as prime minister]. He was not a Vincentian diplomat, he did not work for the government, yet he was given a diplomatic passport. In 2004, he was travelling to a family affair in the UK. Judith Jones-Morgan was travelling to the same family affair [a funeral], but on a different flight. He was caught at a London airport carrying one kilo of cocaine. Because he was travelling on an SVG diplomatic passport he was sent packing back to SVG. A kilo of cocaine in the UK usually earns you a ten to twenty year jail sentence. The man had a Canadian passport and a normal Vincentian passport, but he chose to travel on his SVG diplomatic passport. When he got back to SVG he was not charged here for anything. He went scot-free, no charges were brought.
Nov 11, 2015 - Two men, relatives of the wife of President Nicolás Maduro
, the two men were charged in a sealed indictment accusing them of conspiring to ship 800 kilograms of cocaine to the United States, to be sold in New York, that high-level Venezuelan officials are involved in the drug trade.
Revealed: Hugo Chávez role in cocaine trail to Europe