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Drugs up in smoke

Smoke rises from the furnace where tens of millions of dollars in drugs were destroyed today.

Smoke rises from the furnace where tens of millions of dollars in drugs were destroyed today.

More than $43 million worth of illegal drugs went up in smoke this morning, as police in Barbados embarked on a fresh offensive against traffickers.

It took three trucks to transport the seven tons of cannabis which was held in police custody, to the furnace at Grantley Adams International Airport, where it was destroyed by fire.

Public Relations Officer, Inspector David Welch, told reporters on the scene that today was the first in a series of bulk destruction of illegal drugs, as the force intensifies its efforts at seizures across the country.

Welch explained that today’s consignment of contraband came from drug landings and large seizures dating back to 2010.

He noted that the cannabis — in bags, boxes and bales — some compressed and others in the form of plants, related to cases still pending before the law courts. However, the public relations officer pointed out that the Evidence Act gave the Commissioner of Police the authority to conduct sample tests of each package — in the presence of the accused — and to destroy the remainder. Welch explained that the samples would be used as evidence in court.

The police spokesman said the force would be using the “sample and burn” method from now on. The police inspector made it clear that the force would not be easing up its drug elimination efforts around the country.

Just a portion of the seven tons of marijuana destined for the incinerator.

Just a portion of the seven tons of marijuana destined for the incinerator.

Just yesterday, he added, the Drug Squad seized a significant number of cannabis plants at Glenburnie, St.John.

“We realise persons have increased cultivation. We have seen an increase (in drugs),” stated Welch.

Members of the Drug Squad, assisted by Barbados Defence Force personnel drove or off loaded the trucks and fed the drugs onto the furnace’s conveyor belt.

When contacted later, Head of the Drug Squad Superintendent Grafton Phillips told Barbados TODAY that just over 3,000 kilos of cannabis, more than 33 kilos of cocaine and 13,000 plants have so far been siezed for this year. Phillips noted that for the whole of last year, in excess of 21,000 cannabis plants were seized. The senior police officer said too, that his squad, which is responsible for the majority of seizures and arrests across the island, had so far apprehended 135 suspects. Last year, the figure was 246. However, he explained that he did not have the number of arrests for the Bridgetown Division.

Phillips reported that they arrested 235 persons for this year to date, with the seizure of, or charges in connection with, assorted arms and ammunition. These arrests, he made it clear, related to investigations into drug cases. “What we are seeing (now) is an increase in drug seizures (in land) as more Barbadians resort to cultivating cannabis plants in very remote areas. We have seen a drop, though, in coastal landings by go fast boats because of the different strategies we have deployed,” he revealed. “We are working closer now with other security agencies.”

Phillips also disclosed that the force was hoping to destroy another batch of illegal drugs, possibly more than a truck load, next week.

“Having all those drugs stored at police stations is creating a health problem,” he explained. (EJ)

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