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No special treatment for arrested PNP councillors, says Bunting

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — Special Assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 19, 2012    

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SECURITY Minister Peter Bunting says Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay Michael Troupe and councillor for the Salt Spring Division Sylvan Reid — both of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) — who were arrested yesterday for their alleged involvement in the lotto scam will not be treated above the law.

Troupe, his two sons and Reid were among five people held by the task force during pre-dawn raids at their homes in St James.

Bunting said yesterday that no one will get any political protection from this Administration regardless of position or political affiliation, even as he assured the police that they have a free hand to conduct investigations and operations.

Bunting, who is general secretary of the ruling PNP, said while it was regrettable that elected representatives have been implicated, the more important principle is that the law will apply across the board.

"Essentially there is an assumption in the society is that you get by through links, and what this demonstrates is that this is certainly not so," Bunting told the weekly Jamaica House Press Briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston yesterday.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, who was also in attendance at the press briefing, would not say how long the men have been under surveillance, noting only that the investigations had transition from intelligence gathering to operations.

"... It would be inappropriate to describe the type of evidence which has been uncovered because this operation may extend in other areas for the day, perhaps beyond, so I would love to give the men on the ground the opportunity to close the operations and decide how to go forward," Ellington told journalists.

The police chief had high praise for the Lottery Scam Taskforce which has been credited with making more than 100 arrests since it began operation earlier this year. "It is our intention to focus on the top players in the lotto scam for as long as it takes to break the back of that," he said.

Responding to a question about the possible extradition of lotto scammers to stand trial overseas, Ellington expressed confidence that some of the recent arrests could be clear possibilities for such requests to be made.

Bunting also had high commendation for the task force, noting that it has been phenomenally successful since its inception. Bunting said the multimillion-dollar lotto scam has the potential to impact the country's tourism product and investments, particularly in the ICT sector. "Although the players involved may not individually rise to the level of kingpin, collectively this [lotto scam] is seen as a tier one threat to Jamaica," the minister said.

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