Time for an unexplained wealth legislation

Dear Editor,

In August 2021 Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that his administration was “not distracted”, and remains committed to tackling crime against the background of a 10 per cent rise in murders at that time. He also disclosed particular police divisions “... of concern [such as] the southern belt of Kingston and St Andrew, which comprises four of the five policing divisions in Police Area Four [which] accounted for 36 per cent of all murders...” and “the parishes of St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland, which accounted for a further 24 per cent of murders …Together, this cluster of communities in the southern belt of Kingston and St Andrew and in the tri-parishes in the north... has accounted for 60 per cent of the country's murders in 2021”. ('We will get you, Holness tells criminals,' Loop News, August 23, 2021)

In addition, these police divisions are rife with poverty and are the playing grounds for gangs aligned to both major political parties. Outside of these communities, middle- and upper-class benefactors roam the streets uninhibited as they flaunt their ill-got gains, while public states of emergency (SOEs) are enforced in these divisions.

While most of us might agree that SOEs are not a permanent solution to control the most serious criminal activities in Jamaica, various legislations could assist in this regard. Among them is the unexplained wealth legislation, which exists in countries — Colombia, UK, Australia, South Africa, and Ireland — with a much lower crime rate than Jamaica's.

The primary purpose of the legislation in these countries is to prevent the proceeds of organised crime from financing future criminal activities.

In the context of Colombia, the unexplained wealth law was enacted in that country in the year 2002. According to data from the World Bank (2021), the annual murder rate in Colombia for 2001 was 69.16 per 100,000 people. For 2003 the rate declined to 56.7, while for 2018 it was 25.34. It is widely known that prior to 2002 Colombia was battling to control frequent occurrences of murder and large-scale drug trafficking.

Jamaica's murder rate for 2001 was 1,139 or 42.58 per 100,000 people, and for 2018 the rate was 43.85 per 100,000. The prime minister has hinted that we need to find ways of making organised crime an unprofitable venture for criminal elements in Jamaica.

It is known that in Jamaica organised criminal networks exist and make their profits from gun sales, scamming, extortion, and robberies. Law enforcement personnel may even see some of these criminal suspects profiling with luxurious assets, but can do little or nothing to prevent the proceeds from their criminal activities from financing future crime. Even ministers of the Jamaican Government, such as Delroy Chuck (justice) and Robert Montague (mining and transport) have made comments suggesting that this law could help to control crime in Jamaica. Montague made this suggestion while serving as Jamaica's national security minister.

People may argue that this law is intrusive and breaches a person's constitutional right to privacy, but the public good would be better off if the proceeds from criminal activities are prevented from committing other serious crimes, such as the purchasing of illegal guns, and then using them to murder people.

If we have money laundering legislation, then there is no reason why we should not have an unexplained wealth legislation.

Dudley C McLean II

Mandeville, Manchester


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