The Royal Bahamas Police Force has reported a 36 percent increase in hacking and extortion in The Bahamas. Between January 1st and June 30th, 2020, there were 118 cyber-crime incidents reported to authorities, compared to the 87 matters reported during the same period in 2019.
The rise in cyber-crime activity is not exclusive to The Bahamas, but a regional and global challenge during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During the Virtual Security Conference held by CARICOM IMPACS from July 27th to 31st, several representatives expressed concerns about the vulnerability of the region, and particularly its members in relation to cyber-crimes. Concerns about the need to increase the legal and cyber-security frameworks were also raised. The UN Resident Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Aruba, Curacao and Sint Marteen, Marina Walter, expressed concern about the lack of comprehensive cyber-security policies among member states relating to “the high number of unsecured servers.”
She further stated that based on reports from member states that have come in since the COVID-19 lockdown period, “there is an increase in attempted COVID-19-stimulus fraud schemes, a rise in hate speech on social media, phishing attacks and the dissemination of obscenities.” Ms. Walter further noted that in the new normal, countries in the region are likely to digitize their economies, therefore raising the risk levels related to cyber-crime. Consequently, this is an area for all partners to engage more forcefully, identifying appropriate support for countries to tighten frameworks that allow for the better control for cyber-crime.
Police Action in The Bahamas
Commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Mr. Paul Rolle stated that the organization will increase money laundering prosecutions and convictions; disrupt the benefits of criminal enterprises; increase confiscations of the proceeds of crime; and reduce financial and commercial crimes. The Commissioner said that Bahamian authorities will partner with the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for the Caribbean (ARIN-CARIB), which shares intelligence to seize assets and counteract crime across international borders. He stated that “we will strengthen the Financial Crime Investigations Branch. The Financial Crime Unit and the Anti-Corruption Unit will continue to conduct financial crime investigations, money laundering, terrorist financing investigations, and parallel investigations into proceeds of crime.”
The Commissioner committed to strengthening the capacity of the Financial Crime Investigations Branch by providing standardized financial investigation training. He also pledged to increase the complement of investigators within the Financial Crime Unit, inclusive of the forensic accountants and analysts.