MONTEGO BAY, St James — Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Lloyd B Smith says the timing of the temporary closure of the 14 Western Union outlets in St James could adversely affect persons who rely on remittances for back-to-school expenses.
"It has to be understood that at this particular time of the year we deal with 'back-to-school', and there are many parents, guardians, children out there who depend on the remittances in order to buy books, uniforms and various school supplies, so I think it could not have come at a worse time," argued Smith.
He argued, too, that the shutting down of the outlets will negatively impact the economy of the resort city, a hotbed for the multibillion-dollar lottery scam.
Western Union International ordered GraceKennedy Money Services, which operates the franchise here, to close the outlets for a minimum of two weeks so it can implement measures to thwart the lottery scamming industry. It has resulted in overcrowding at the three outlets in the neighbouring parishes of Hanover and Trelawny.
Smith, who is also the member of parliament for Central St James, maintained that he had no problems with the remittance service providers tackling irregularities, but said the company needed to state the real reason for the closure.
"I think there are more questions than answers, and I would hope that the two weeks that have been set aside for the closure will in fact be decreased. I think two weeks is a long time and it is going to have a tremendous impact on the economy of Montego Bay; there is no question that there are many legitimate persons who use Western Union [and] not just lotto scammers," Smith noted.
He further noted: "I do believe, therefore, that whatever is now unfolding ought to be dealt with as quickly as possible so that bona fide customers of Western Union can continue to benefit from their services."
Late last month, deputy mayor of Montego Bay Michael Troupe and his son were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the infamous scam. They were charged with illegal possession of firearm and ammunition. The elder Troupe has since been freed, while his son awaits sentencing.
"I am still befuddled at all that is happening," Smith told the Jamaica Observer. "We have had a deputy mayor and a councillor who have been arrested and charged with what one would regard as charges that do not relate to the lotto scam, and now we have the closure of some 14 Western Union outlets. Again, we assume it has something to do with the lotto scam, yet we are being told by the Western Union itself that they are just looking at irregularities. So, it seems to me that we need to have greater level of respect for the intelligence of the Jamaican people."