Turks and Caicos

Florida Senator continues to demand answers after Americans’ arrest in Turks and Caicos

 

jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday he has learned of another case of an American tourist arrested in the Caribbean on charges of having a bullet in his luggage. Now, Nelson is stepping up pressure on the U. S. State Department for more information on similar incidents.

Nelson’s office released information on the two-year-old incident, which involved a U.S. citizen arrested in Freeport, Bahamas. The man, from Liberty, Kansas spent three days in a Bahamian jail after a bullet was found in his fanny pack at the airport.

“This raises further questions about whether there’s been a shakedown of some American tourists – and about how long this might have been happening,” Nelson wrote Monday in a letter to Ambassador Janice Jacobs, the assistant secretary of state for U.S. consular affairs.

Last week, Nelson raised concerns about two Americans, vacationing in the Turks and Caicos Islands, arrested last month in separate incidents after one bullet was found in their luggage

The travelers, a 60-year-old Texas businesswoman and an 80-year-old retired Florida neurosurgeon, had checked in at the Providenciales Airport a day apart. The woman was informed that there was a .38-caliber bullet in her carry-on. The man was told there was a bullet, a 9mm, in his checked luggage.

Both were arrested, jailed and released after posting $4,000 cash bail in the British dependent territory, 575 miles southeast of Miami.

Turks and Caicos government officials say “a thorough investigation” is ongoing. Authorities are examining surveillance footage from both inside and outside of the tiny airport.

“These are unprecedented events for our destination and are most regrettable for all involved,” the country’s tourism ministry said in a statement. “However, the security apparatus at the airport functioned as it was designed to. Now, we need to find out how the facts surrounding these matters fit together.”

After learning of the first two arrests, Nelson, a Democrat, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, wrote to the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, which has responsibility for the Turks and Caicos, demanding a thorough investigation. They also asked whether any other Americans had been arrested under similar circumstances.

Embassy officials told them no, according to Nelson’s office.

But, Nelson says the Bahamas incident shows otherwise.

He also said he has become aware of an Orlando man arrested in April 2011 on an ammunitions charge at the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau, although the traveler reportedly had 10 bullets in his luggage instead of one.

There is no other information available on the two most recent cases, according to Nelson’s office.

“The treatment of American citizens as they travel internationally remains a serious concern of mine,” Nelson said in his letter.

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