Headline — 11 April 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Belize major illicit drug transshipment point: US

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 9, 2018– The United States Department of State has just released its 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) and Belize is named in the report as one of the major drug transshipment countries.

The INCSR is prepared annually by the Department of State for the US Congress. The report is done in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act.

In the country report on Belize, the INCSR notes that “Belize is a transit country for illicit drugs destined for the United States from source countries in South America.”

The report notes: “Limited funds, unreliable equipment, and limited human resources hamper the capacity of the Belize Coast Guard (BCG) and the police Anti-Narcotics Unit (ANU) to monitor coastal waters. The BCG lacks adequate boats to effectively patrol Belize’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Belize has limited technical capacity to monitor air or sea craft. Belize’s drug control efforts are hampered by the same challenges faced by the rest of the country’s security sector – corruption, insufficient investigative capacity, an ineffective judicial sector, and a lack of political will.”

On the question of money laundering, the report said, “Belize has an offshore financial sector but is not a key regional financial center. Belize is a transshipment point for marijuana and cocaine. FTZs are routinely used to move money across borders. Belize is vulnerable to money laundering due to the lack of enforcement of its laws and regulations, strong bank secrecy protections, geographic location, and weak investigatory and prosecutorial capacity. The sources of money laundering are drug trafficking, tax evasion, securities fraud, and conventional structuring schemes.”

The report said that the US provided technical assistance to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), “a semi-autonomous interagency group mandated to investigate and prosecute illicit financial transactions. The FIU expanded staffing, training, and interagency cooperation, but did not prosecute any cases in 2017.”
Belize is not a source country for illicit drugs and precursor chemicals, but it continues to be used for both as a transshipment point.

The report notes, “Belize lacks laws specifically addressing drug-related corruption. The Prevention of Corruption Act, passed in 2000, includes measures to combat corruption related to illicit monetary gains and the misuse of public funds while holding public office. It also provides a code of conduct for civil servants. Belize did not charge anyone under this act in 2017.”

INCSR also noted that the special audit of the Immigration Department created the atmosphere of sufficient public pressure for the government to sign the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2016.

“Belize signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) on December 12, 2016. In the course of implementing UNCAC, the government completed a self-assessment checklist; participated in a technical exchange visit in Jamaica; and initiated an impact of corruption assessment,” the report said.

The report concluded saying, “The United States encourages Belize to strengthen its public security and law enforcement institutions through more effective anti-corruption legislation, comprehensive background checks and vetting of new and existing personnel, enhanced training, and continuing education programs. The United States will maintain its strong partnership with Belize and assist in its fight against transnational criminal organizations.”

Last December, Belize voted along with an overwhelming number of countries in the United Nations General Assembly against making Jerusalem the capital of Israel, which would result in all embassies being moved there.

By mid-January, the administration of US President Donald Trump announced that Belizeans would no longer receive US work visas for a year until the US reviewed the country’s progress on human trafficking because of the country’s human trafficking record.

Belize has been placed on a US Tier 3 list for human trafficking.

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Deshawn Swasey

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