JAMAICA'S top diplomat in the United States, Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie, on Saturday urged professionals in New York to help raise awareness about the illicit lottery scam which continues to affect both countries.
Vasciannie was speaking at the LaGuardia Plaza hotel to members of the Jamaica/America Bar Association (North East) and other professionals based in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Philadelphia.
"Public education will be important in bringing knowledge to the communities of western Jamaica and beyond, concerning the detrimental impact of scamming on all Jamaicans. I hope you will join the effort in your respective areas," Vasciannie said, restating the Jamaican Government's resolve to stamp out the illegal activity in the country.
Vasciannie, whose presentation was mainly about Jamaica's achievements since Independence, said the Government has implemented several measures to counter the lottery scam, which primarily has its roots in the western end of the island.
He said it was vital that he inform the professionals, leaders in their own spheres, of the measures being undertaken by the Jamaican Government.
"The sad truth is that many of the fraudsters are Jamaicans. There is also evidence that some of them are linked to various other criminal activities in the country. Their actions have brought shameful damage to Jamaica's reputation, and threaten to undermine the country's tourism, remittance and outsourcing businesses," said Vasciannie.
"Indeed, if left unchecked, lottery scam activities could insidiously destroy large segments of commercial activity in Jamaica, as the US Government, foreign investors and other business interests come to view Brand Jamaica as an item to be shunned, not embraced," he said.
It is against this background, Vasciannie said, that the Government took the Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions Special Provisions Act to the Parliament. That law will enable the creation of prison sentences of up to 25 years for lottery scam activities, said Vasciannie.
"This legislation will also allow restitution for victims of lottery scams, and will empower the State to confiscate property acquired through lottery scam theft," he explained, noting that the Government has also passed amendments to the Evidence Act, which will allow video evidence to be taken from overseas and used in the Jamaican courts.
Vasciannie said these measures will augment efforts by the police as well as a special inter-ministerial body in addressing the problem.
"Finally, it is also anticipated that extradition requests will follow as Jamaican and United States authorities co-operate to end scamming," he added.
In the meantime, Vasciannie informed the gathering that public campaigns have also been launched in Jamaica to counter the mistaken notion spread by entertainers that scamming is justifiable reparations for slavery and other historical sins.
Thousands of Americans have been fleeced billions of dollars by scammers who call unsuspecting persons in the United States and inform them that they have won millions of dollars. The victims are informed that the prize is retrievable on condition of payment of a sum of money, which they then send to the criminals.
As there is no prize, the victims are often left impoverished and embarrassed by the scammers.
More than 200 Jamaicans have been killed due to disputes between lottery scammers, the police have reported.