POCA being strengthened

New policy targets assets of those who help criminals

BY INGRID BROWN Senior staff reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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THE Government intends to go after the assets of criminal facilitators under a new national security policy now being crafted, minister of national security Peter Bunting said yesterday.


According to Bunting, the first phase of the policy, which will focus on going after the proceeds of crime, will be ready by the end of March with the second phase being rolled out within a month or two thereafter.


As for the necessary legislation to go after those who facilitate criminal activities, Bunting said Government intends to look at amending the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to include the facilitators.


"We have found other jurisdiction where the court has the power not only to seize assets of criminals, but [that of] their relatives, lawyers and accountants who were found to be facilitating, hiding or laundering their assets, and we want to expand POCA to do that," Bunting told journalists at a special Jamaica House Press Briefing in Kingston.


Comparing what exists now to the new approach being embarked on, Bunting said while the current focus is on intercepting drugs and guns, under the new approach the primary focus will be on taking the profits out of crime.


The assets seized, Bunting said, would be used to further assist law enforcement in the fight against crime.


"In terms of asset forfeiture I would like a 100 per cent (of proceeds), but realistically we would settle for 50-80 per cent coming back into the Ministry of National Security to support law enforcement activities," he said.


According to Bunting, this model has been successfully used in other jurisdictions where criminals end up financing the fight against them.


"Whether it's forfeiting cars or commercial buildings they own and redeploying those to the use of the police and redeploying the cash to support operations against them," he said.


Meanwhile, the security minister said unlike the previous approach where the focus is on capturing and imprisoning the street operators, the aim under this new policy will be to go after the kingpins and facilitators.


According to Bunting, while the senior figures in criminal organisations will stay some distance from stree-level crime, they will not stay too far from the money, often entrusting its care to those closest to them.


"We also want to focus not only on kingpins but the facilitators such as the lawyers, real estate brokers, bankers, accountants, the corrupt public officials who allow them to operate as they have been," he said.


He added further that the forfeiture of assets will include bank accounts, high-end motor vehicles, lavish real estate properties, among others.


The minister also announced that an elite multi-agency task force will be created to focus specifically on these criminals and their facilitators.


Although it is now being dubbed the National Anti-Corruption Task Force (NATC), Bunting said a more suitable code name will be identified similar to that of Operation Kingfish.


The NATC, he further explained, will comprise persons from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, the Financial Investigation Division, as well as International Partners.


"We have been working very hard in the last seven weeks to strengthen co-operation with our international partners and we have had some significant reactivation of things like the Shiprider Agreement where in the last two months the United States Coast Guards have intercepted two go-fast boats carrying ganja, and so we are looking for significant financial operational support from international partners," he said.


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