MONTEGO BAY, St James — Legislation to bring to book those involved in the lotto scam, including persons found with paraphernalia linked with the racket should be tabled by next year National Security Minister Peter Bunting has said.
This would mean that persons could be arrested for having lead lists — databases containing thousands of names, addresses and other personal contact information — often used by scammers to target and con their victims.
"By next year what we need to do is look at a specific piece of legislation to deal with this category of crimes called advance fees fraud, where we would, for example, make it an offence for persons having things like lead lists," Bunting noted.
"If the police seize a computer, searches and finds evidence of e-mails being sent out to hundreds of people telling them that they have won X-million dollars, unless they could prove that there was some legitimate purpose for that, that would in itself be prima facie evidence for them having committed a crime, which right now is much harder to prove," he added.
Currently there is no specific legislation in place to deal with advance fee fraud, which is the generic term for scamming. As a result, the police have been unable to charge a number of persons who were detained after being found with lead sheets, magic jacks, and other equipment used in the lotto scam.
In the meantime, Bunting, who was addressing members of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry last week, said that in an effort to support the anti-scamming efforts of the police, the Government will also seek to amend existing legislation such as the Evidence Act.
Bunting revealed that in the next two weeks, Justice Minister Mark Golding will be taking a piece of legislation to Cabinet for an amendment that will allow video testimony from lottery scam victims who live abroad to be used in court without them having to travel to Jamaica, which is often a deterrent.
"This is very difficult because the victims generally are remote, elderly people who are not inclined to travel far distances, and then interface with a court system which tend to postpone cases multiple times. So they have to travel more than once," Bunting argued.
He said changes to the Evidence Act would also be very useful for victims of rape and children who have to give evidence.
He also suggested amendments be made to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to bring some of the lottery scam type activities under POCA which will allow Government to seize illicit proceeds more easily.
The lottery scam which is deeply rooted in Montego Bay and other section of St James is said to be the reason for 60 per cent of all murders in the parish.