THE Anti-Lottery Scam Bill finally completed the parliamentary circuit in the House of Representatives yesterday and immediately Peter Bunting promised early prosecution of scammers who have been destroying people's lives and damaging Jamaica's name internationally.
"That certainly is our intention," Bunting, the national security minister, told Opposition spokesman on national security Delroy Chuck, who had suggested that lottery scammers seemed to be sneering at the Bill and the possibility of being extradited to the United States for trial and that it would need prosecutions to win public support.
"That's why we are moving this Bill through all its stages urgently, so that it will come into law and the police will have this tool," the minister said as he closed the debate on the bill, officially titled the law reform (Fraudulent Transactions) Act 2013, after the House approved 14 amendments made by the Senate last week Thursday.
The Bill will now go to the governor general to be signed, after which it will be gazetted, then become law.
Yesterday, Chuck said that the Opposition is hoping that the Act will be implemented as soon as possible, as the matter is of national importance and has been giving Jamaica a very bad image abroad.
"Until we have prosecutions of these scammers, we are going to have this destructive operation continuing," Chuck said.
"Once we receive an extradition request, once it is compliant and lawful, it will be dealt with as provided for in our extradition act and the various treaties that cover that," Bunting said.
Chuck also thanked the Senate for "fine-tuning" the Bill and coming up with 14 amendments, most of which sought to protect legitimate operators and operations who might have become victims of the wider provisions of the original act.
Bunting said that while some of the amendments might seem like semantics, in talking about illicit gain there was the need to avoid any question of legitimate businesses which end up benefiting from some "small fraction" of the profits from the lottery scam being treated as scammers.
He said that he had met with the Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Senator Arthur Williams, and the drafters of the Bill from the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to discuss the issues raised by the Senate.
"We went over this for a long time, and I was satisfied, not being a lawyer myself, that the changes adequately addressed the concerns," he said. He also noted that both sides of the Senate had agreed on the amendments.
Concerns about the legality of aspects of the Act, the key legislative tool in the fight against the lottery scam, led the Senate to delay passage of the Bill by a week, and eventually make 14 amendments, including provisions regarding being contaminated by the proceeds of the scam.