Bahamian Official Calls Drug Bribe Allegations ‘Totally Incredible’
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bahamian Attorney General Paul L. Adderley dismissed as ″totally incredible″ Monday an admitted drug smuggler’s testimony that he paid Prime Minister Lynden Pindling millions of dollars in bribes to protect his illegal operations in the Caribbean island nation.
Adderley told Senate investigators he nevertheless intends to investigate the allegations by narcotics trafficker George Baron after he reviews a transcript of the recent testimony in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Fla.
″It needs to be faced squarely,″ Adderley said.
Baron, an admitted American narcotics trafficker, testified at the trial of Colombian cocaine kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas last week that he paid Pindling $400,000 during a meeting in a gambling casino on Paradise Island, across the bay from the Bahamian capital of Nassau in the fall of 1980.
Altogether, Baron said, he made payments of $3 million to $5 million to Pindling for protection of his marijuana smuggling operation through the Bahamas from 1979 to 1981. Baron said Lehder told him that Lehder himself had paid Pindling $200,000 a month for his cooperation.
″This is a totally incredible story, an unbelievable story,″ Adderley said. He said a gambling casino would have been ″an improbable and unlikely place″ for payment of a bribe because Pindling would have been surrounded by aides, bodyguards and hundreds of people who recognized him.
″It would be like the president of the United States taking a bribe in Atlantic City,″ Adderley said.
Sens. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., questioned Adderley closely about Baron’s allegations during a hearing by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on joint U.S. and Bahamian drug interdiction efforts in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.
D’Amato cited Baron’s testimony, among other concerns, as possible reasons for him to consider voting to curtail U.S. foreign assistance to the Bahamas when the Senate considers the drug issue in the next few weeks.
Under a 1986 law, the Senate may overrule the president’s decision to certify that certain foreign countries are eligible for continued U.S. foreign aid because they are cooperating fully with U.S. efforts to halt the production, shipment and domestic distribution of illicit narcotics.
D’Amato quoted from a State Department report issued Jan. 20 which asserted ″the absence of a serious commitment by the Bahamian government to fight corruption″ related to illegal drug activities.
The senator also alleged there are a ″significant number of Bahamian citizens charged with drug crimes who are released on bail, only to disappear, swelling the ranks of drug fugitives.″
In addition, D’Amato cited a two-year delay in the Bahamas’ extradition of Nigel Bowe, a major drug trafficker sought by the U.S. authorities.
″We already have too much rhetoric and empty promises, from our own government as well as others,″ D’Amato said.
Assistant Secretary of State Ann B. Wrobleski said in a prepared statement submitted to the Senate panel that the Bahamas provides ″excellent cooperation″ with the U.S. drug interdiction campaign, but that ″narcotics- rel ated corruption remains a serious problem in the Bahamas.″
She concluded: ″Notwithstanding our cooperative interdiction efforts, we remain frustrated by the lack of enforcement and prosecution against major traffickers and by the slowness with which the Bahamas addresses the long- recognized need to curb official corruption.″
Adderley said the United States was unfairly criticizing the Bahamas, which is handicapped by limited resources in trying to thwart major drug smugglers. U.S. officials estimate that 60 percent of the cocaine and marijuana entering the United States is shipped through the Bahamas and neighboring islands.
″What offends us the most is the judgment that if it were not for corruption and indifference in this country, the Bahamas would not and could not be used as a transit route for the smuggling of Colombia cocaine and marijuana to South Florida,″ Adderley said.
″If the corruption and indifference that is perceived were to magically disappear, the rate of smuggling might not diminish at all simply because I regret to say the United States has not put the personnel, equipment and operating funds into doing what needs to be done in the Bahamas,″ he said.