More FLA shock

Suspected gangster granted gun licence after refusal

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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The case of a suspected Spanish Town-based gangster who was initially denied a gun licence in 2014, then issued with the permit for the deadly weapon a year later, by the then board of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) is now the subject of an investigation by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA).

This development comes as law enforcement sources have confirmed that police investigators are digging deeper as they probe what is suspected to be long running criminality and corruption at the agency.

Documents seen by the Jamaica Observer confirm that in 2014 when the reputed thug applied for the gun licence, the then FLA board was advised that in May 2012 he was convicted in the United States of fraud and sentenced to 17 months' imprisonment, then deported to Jamaica in September 2013.

A report from the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) also advised the FLA that the convict is suspected to be involved in gang activity in crime-ridden areas in the Old Capital. In November 2014 the FLA board wrote the applicant and indicated to him that his request to be issued a firearm licence has been denied because he is “not considered a fit and proper person to be armed”.

But in a shocking development which has raised eyebrows in law enforcement circles, the applicant was written to by the FLA and advised on February 12, 2015 that his application has been approved. The letter reversing the initial decision to deny the convict a nine millimetre gun licence was signed by three members of the then FLA board.

Law enforcement sources have confirmed that the MOCA probe involves 257 cases which go as far back as the infamous Patrick Powell missing file investigation.

Last Thursday, the Sunday Observer received information that the FLA found out last week that man living in one of Kingston's tough communities was in possession of four handgun licences. He was summoned by the authority and the weapons seized.

The newspaper was also informed that a firearm holder was able to renew his licence in July 2017 while being incarcerated abroad.

“This is an administrative function and facilitated by corrupt employees,” a source close to the FLA said.

It was also disclosed last week that the case of a man who was reportedly granted a gun licence, despite allegedly attempting to mislead the FLA into believing that he lives in Jamaica, is among the cases of gun licenses issued under suspicious circumstances between 2012 and 2015 being probed by the police. These details were revealed in a document prepared by the FLA and submitted to MOCA. In this case, the applicant was initially denied a gun licence in 2013 by the then board because investigations showed that he lied about his place of residence.

Official FLA correspondence confirm that the man submitted a letter of appeal to the FLA and claimed he had become a resident of Jamaica and is contracted to a central Jamaica-based company run by a man with political links. The FLA board reversed its decision and issued the man a gun licence.

The case of an applicant who was convicted of lottery scamming and fraud in the United States but was issued a gun licence in 2014 is also being probed by MOCA.

Another case where an applicant who was denied a gun licence on May 15, 2014 because he had been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm but was granted a licence with no expressed explanation for the U-turn is also part of the extensive MOCA probe.

A host of other instances where individuals who were issued with gun licences between 2012 and 2015, despite FLA investigators having raised concern about them being found to be illiterate or having been convicted of violent crimes, are also under investigation.

The revelations of suspect issuing of gun licences during the course of the past six to seven years come following an assertion made by former national security minister Peter Bunting that while he was minister, between 2012 and 2016, the FLA did not issue gun licences to people of questionable character.

Bunting's claim was scoffed at by a law enforcement source connected to Jamaica's international partners who spoke with the Sunday Observer on the weekend and who has knowledge of the MOCA investigation.

Gregory also appeared on the airwaves last week and insisted that his board at all times acted appropriately. He also called for the MOCA probe to be allowed to take place and have the chips fall where they may.

Last Tuesday, news emerged that a senior director at the FLA was among three individuals at the agency terminated with immediate effect. The reason for the terminations was not disclosed in the dismissal letters served on the trio. The senior director had been contracted to the agency for approximately six years.

MOCA is also probing licences issued in 2016 and 2017 by the recently resigned board of directors of the FLA which was led by Dennis Wright. The former board members have strongly denied wrongdoing.

In one case, an applicant was said to have been granted a licence on the strength that she was a friend of a board member.

As the police probe deepens focus has turned on the Audit and Complaints Department, as well as the Certification Department, according to Sunday Observer sources.

“In many instances applicants' notification packages were withheld and they were told to pay if they wanted their packages expedited,” said one source who opted not to be named.

According to the source, one applicant for a dealership in western Jamaica was extorted a total of $5 million by FLA staff who are accused of resisting the efforts of the last board that resigned this month.

“The board had set up subcommittees to provide strict oversight to the operations of the FLA,” the source said, adding that “this was not so in the previous regime.”

It has also been alleged that in western Jamaica FLA staff provide the names of applicants to police who raid the applicants' homes, inform them that they aware that they applied for a firearm and that the police believe that they are involved in lottery scamming. The cops then demand money from the applicants, promising them a favourable report on their application.

According to our source, when the last board found out about these activities it took steps to relieve some of these staff of their duties and invited MOCA to be added to the vetting of applicants.

Last week, the authority's CEO Shane Dalling said that all potential and current staff would be subjected to polygraph testing and vetting by MOCA, NIB and the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

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