Lawmen destroy over $5M worth of drugs

Police set fire to an assortment of illegal drugs valued at more than $5 million at the Burma Quarry on Wednesday. (Photo credit: Elesha George)

By Elesha George

Police officers, other law enforcement officials and Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh witnessed the destruction, by fire, of approximately $5,550,288 worth of illegal drugs at the Burma Quarry, yesterday, in the first drug-burning exercise for 2019.

Officers attached to the Antigua and Barbuda Fire Services were on standby to deal with any eventualities as the police set alight cocaine, cannabis, hashish (cannabis resin) and ecstasy tablets.

“It consists of matters that were disposed of in both the High Court and the Magistrates’ Court, as well as seizures made by the police Narcotics Department … In all, we saw 23 kilos, 176 grams of cocaine, 538 kilos (1,184 pounds) of cannabis, 13 grams of hashish and three ecstasy tablets,” Police Public Relations Officer, Inspector Frankie Thomas told the media.

The wholesale value of the categories of the drugs destroyed amounted to $813,478 in cocaine; $4,736,400 in cannabis; $260 in hashish; and $150 in ecstasy.   

The drug seizures were the result of the combined efforts of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda (RPFAB), the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP), the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force Coast Guard, and the Customs and Immigration departments.

These agencies, Inspector Thomas, said had contributed to the reduction in the amount of drugs imported into the country, as he noted that: “Last year, we would have seen the destruction of nearly $100 million worth of drugs. We had — in 2018 – four separate destructions and that in itself would give you a clear indication of the effort that was made by these different agencies to ensure that we have a drug free country.”

He explained that the drugs are valued depending on the type of and demand for them on the streets.  “I think the relevant authorities have a particular equation or format in which they come up with these, which is almost an international method of how you value the drugs on the street,” he noted.

 Meanwhile, Inspector Thomas shifted focus on the method of destruction, reporting that law enforcement had been considering other means of ridding the state of illicit drugs, bearing in mind the developing health and environmental concerns associated with the method currently being used.

 “It is a safe method; even as we speak, we would have already spoken to the relevant authorities and it is a safe method at this point. We’re even looking at in the future of having it done in a different method, maybe an incinerator,” he said.