NATIONAL Security Minister Peter Bunting has hinted that current law enforcement efforts could result in scammers being carted off to the United States to face the courts there.
"There is a close working relationship and joint investigations taking place as we speak, so it would not surprise me if any of these resulted in an indictment in the United States and a subsequent extradition," Minister Bunting told journalists yesterday at Jamaica House.
The minister was addressing a special briefing following his visit to the US where both he and junior minister Julian Robinson met and engaged officials in talks on the issue.
Bunting's disclosure came a day after legislators in the US, with one voice, called for Jamaican lottery scammers to be extradited there to be tried for fleecing millions in cash from citizens, while at the same time berating the Jamaican Government for letting the situation get out of hand.
Yesterday, Bunting said the subject of extradition repeatedly came up during the visit. He said the Jamaican Government was not averse to that suggestion, while noting that the anger of US Senator Susan Collins about the matter was "legitimate".
"I believe that will be one effective tool in helping to send a signal that their law enforcement was taking this seriously. I think their federal authorities are going to pay some more attention to that going forward," Bunting said.
In the meantime, he said contrary to public opinion the Government had been far from sluggish in attacking the issue.
"We went on a mission to protect Jamaica's brand and minimise the impact on our reputation. While in Washington I delivered a formal written submission to the Congress Senate Special Committee on Aging. I met with the chairman and staffers and we updated them and assured them that this was an area of urgent concern for both governments and outlined all the activities the Government was undertaking to combat the scam," he said.
"We have been very proactive on this issue, not in the last few days but almost from day one of coming into office," he added.
He said the efforts by the Administration in that respect are responsible for the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Unit Task Force. The Unit has been tasked with eradicating the scam, which has been "identified as a tier one threat, a clear and present danger to national security and the economy".
Bunting said the unit has carried out "dozens of major operations, arresting hundreds of persons, charging and prosecuting scores and confiscating over 120 motor vehicles, tens of millions in currency, hundreds of computers, cellphones, magic jacks and so on".
But he said despite the fact that the task force was largely disrupting activities, the police were not getting the convictions for the types of offences they were seeing.
In the meantime, the minister said he believed that popular songs promoting the illegal activity were not innocently generated but were being promoted by the criminals behind the activity.
"...In my judgement I don't believe these are random. I believe they are motivated by the criminal networks who want the cover or create an aura of legitimacy for their activities so that they are not ostracised," Bunting noted. He, however, pointed out that "the vast majority of Jamaicans are vastly embarrassed, deeply ashamed and cut up about this activity" which has "created a lot of damage".