Asset Recovery Unit

Asset Recovery Unit

RSS Asset Recovery Unit – Caribbean 

The RSS criminal assets recovery programme is an innovative approach to tackling serious organised crime in the Caribbean common law jurisdictions, through partnership and the robust application of proceeds of crime and money laundering legislation. It commenced in November 2015, taking over from the highly successful Eastern Caribbean Financial Investigations Advisory Team (ECFIAT) and Caribbean Criminal Assets Recovery Programme (CCARP).

RSS ARU is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). Although based in Barbados, it covers the seven independent countries of the Eastern Caribbean, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines. The team also provide wider regional support to include key transit countries and the overseas territories of the United Kingdom.

The RSS ARU team is comprised of an International Director, two Caribbean prosecutor and investigation advisors and two International prosecutor and investigation advisors. The unit is staffed with administrative support and is based within a purpose built International Law Enforcement Fusion Centre within the Regional Security System HQ at the Barbados Defence Force military base. 

The purpose of the RSS ARU is to build capacity and capability within regional law enforcement agencies, Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), Public Prosecutors, Magistracy and the Judiciary. The unit seeks to enhance their efforts in countering serious organised crime, particularly drug trafficking, by utilising cash seizure, money laundering and confiscation legislation as key components in financial investigation and asset recovery. RSS ARU has recently completed the drafting of ‘model’ proceeds of crime legislation to remedy legislative deficiencies and encourage the introduction and use of civil forfeiture legislation. 

To date, RSS ARU mentoring has assisted in the identification and restraint of US$26.8 million of criminal assets. In addition, US$7.5 million has been (civil) forfeited by the courts using cash seizure provisions, with a further US$4.5 million seized and in the court process. 120 money laundering investigations are being carried out, with 85 persons charged with money laundering offences. 

RSS ARU are working with the Caribbean Financial Action TASK Force (CFATF) in devising and implementing a Training and Accreditation Programme for all financial investigators and analysts in the Caribbean. This will seek to standardise training and procedures regionally and result in internationally recognised accreditation. The team also works closely to ensure FATF recommendations are implemented and followed in conjunction with their national security requirements. 

RSS ARU work closely with all Regional and International partners including US, UK, UNODC, OAS, OECS, CARICOM, CFATF, IMPACS. The Caribbean is used as a transhipment point for the trafficking of cocaine from South America to the major consumer markets of North America, UK and Europe. The profits generated regionally is a factor in the gang and gun culture across the region. Crime, violence and corruption, deters inward investment and hinders regional development. The RSS ARU is committed to taking the profit out of crime and supporting the Caribbean region in the fight against organised crime and corruption.

Land Forces

Land Forces

The Regional Security System (RSS) was involved in its first major operation one year after its inception when in 1983, the RSS forces was among the first to land in Grenada during the intervention operation.  This provided the RSS with its ultimate test and one which it proved equal. In July 1990 the attempted coup in Trinidad saw the RSS mobilize a force to support the democratic government and the reaction and mobilization were remarkable.

In 1989 Hurricane HUGO set another challenge and the Forces of the region played a vital role in the disaster relief operation.  The receipt and dispatch of relief supplies were coordinated by the RSS and the international relief agencies were extremely grateful for the organisation that the RSS provided in a traditionally chaotic area of disaster relief.  The concept of the CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU) was born out of response to hurricane HUGO.


Operations since Inception

1983 – The Grenada Intervention Operation
1989  – Hurricane HUGO in Antigua, St. Kitts and    Nevis and Montserrat
1990 –  The aftermath of the attempted Coup in  Trinidad and Tobago
1994 –  St Kitts and Nevis – Internal Security (Prison uprising situation)
1995 – Hurricanes LUIS and MARILYN in Antigua and St. Kitts  and Nevis
1998 – Hurricane Georges in St. Kitts and Nevis
1998 – St Vincent and the Grenadines – Operation WEEDEATER (eradication of cannabis)
2003  – St Lucia –  Operation BORDELAIS (Transfer of prisoners to new prison)
2004 – Grenada – Hurricane IVAN
2005- Barbados – Operation RESTORE PEACE
2007 – CWC 07 in RSS Member States
2010 – Haiti – Operation RESTORE COMFORT

2011 Response to Hurricane TOMAS in St Vincent and St Lucia  
2015 Response to Tropical Storm ERIKA in Dominica.
2017 CDRU Deployment in response to Hurricanes IRMA and MARIA. RSS Deployment to Dominica in response to Hurricane MARIA

Air Wing

Air Wing

The two C-26A aircraft owned and operated by the Regional Security System (RSS) Air Wing were donated by the US Government in January of 1999. It was expected that the operation of the two aircraft working in support of the RSS Member State Coast Guard units, Drug Squad Units and International Law Enforcement Agencies would enhance the Counter Drug (CD) effort in the region.  These expectations were clearly met from the inception. Notwithstanding limitations in the first two years of operations when the aircraft were yet to be fitted with a surveillance package, the Air Wing could still boast of Go-Fast sightings and disruptions.

These challenges were met head on with upgrades to the airframes, installation of sensors and the necessary training for the crew and maintenance personnel. At the end of 2005 full funding of the Air Wing by the US Government seized following which, the RSS took over all aspects of funding as the need for this mission critical capability became more evident. The two aircraft were recently refurbished and upgraded with modern state of the art sensors through funding provided by the Governments of the US and Canada.

The two C-26A aircraft are a force multiplier in the region with the ability to work with several countries to meet their security goals. This was clearly evident during Cricket World Cup held in the Caribbean in 2007, and in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, when one aircraft was deployed to Jamaica for a period of five weeks in support of the Jamaica Defence Force; more recently the Air Wing participated in the relief efforts in support of the countries devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Air Wing supports a diverse number of RSS objectives, but continues to focus on maritime counter drug operations as its primary mission. The broad array of capabilities of the aircraft combined with highly skilled and motivated personnel allow for several objectives of the RSS to be met with success in addition to counter drug missions.  Search and Rescue (SAR), fisheries protection, pollution control, and disaster relief are some of the other missions conducted by the Air wing.

The capabilities of the aircraft are not limited to maritime operations only, but extend to land based operations as well. Several Marijuana eradication operations routinely carried out by law enforcement units within the RSS Member States have been supported by the Air Wing; reconnaissance missions identify fields and provide command, control and communication for troops conducting the eradication exercise.                   

The RSS Air Wing is an established and fully functional unit, and at the forefront of maritime CD surveillance missions in the region. The unit enjoys, and benefits from a close relationship with its international partners, in particular with the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Joint Inter Agency Task Force (JIATF) South, with whom it shares a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to provide aircraft support for counter drug missions.

To date the Air Wing has logged just over 16,000 flight hours in support of the region. The Air Wing operates from the South ramp of the Grantley Adams International Airport Incorporated (GAIA Inc) where the aircraft are housed in two hangars. The Air Wing conducts its own maintenance, a function previously undertaken on contract by provincial Airlines of Canada until 2014.



In 1989 the Council of Ministers mandated the Central Liaison Office introduced a programme of Coordinated Patrols at sea involving Coast Guard vessels of RSS Member States. For these patrols, the region was divided into two sectors with St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica in the north and Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia in the south.
A vessel was tasked to patrol each sector on a weekly basis in order to enforce the areas of cooperation but with special emphasis on the interdiction of illegal drugs.  However, these patrols have been scaled down due to manpower and equipment shortages.These coordinated patrols were combined with operations from the US Coast Guards, Royal Navy West Indies Guard Ship (WIGS), Royal Netherlands WIGS, French Customs in Martinique and the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATFS).
The Royal Navy WIGS conducted an annual patrol referred to as the “Antilles Patrols” and these operations resulted in some major drug seizures in the region.The RSS Coast Guards continues in the fight against narcotics with joint  maritime operations with the RSS Air Wing.