Big jump in number of cases being investigated by FID
Chief Technical Director Selvin Hay addressing a Jamaica Observer Press Club last Wednesday.Naphtali Junior

Pointing to a 62 per cent increase in the number of people charged with money laundering offences between 2020 and November 30, 2022, the Financial Investigations Division's (FID) says this is proof that the 20-year-old agency is working.

Chief Technical Director Selvin Hay told last week's Jamaica Observer Press Club that the increase in people being charged is due to greater collaboration between his agency and other law enforcement agencies.

The FID has reported that in 2020 a total of 26 people were charged in connection with money laundering offences. This increased to 34 in 2021 and climbed to 42 so far this year.

A report from the FID shows that between January 2021 and November 30, 2022, it initiated 226 investigations, with 118 in 2021 and 108 in 2022. The cases include money laundering offences, 74; cash seizure, 44; post-conviction forfeiture, 30; and civil recovery of property, 11.

The report also indicates a marked increase in the number of people convicted of financial crimes in recent time.

Nine people were convicted between January and November 30 this year, compared to five in 2021.

Empowered by the Financial Investigations Division Act, 2010 and the Proceeds of Crimes Act, 2007 (POCA), the FID has targeted suspected cases of money laundering, financial crime, and corruption in tandem with entities such as the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Jamaica Customs Agency, and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA). The FID also works closely with overseas law enforcement agencies.

Speaking on the improvements the FID has seen since it increased its collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, Hay told Observer editors and reporters that POCA is a very powerful Act and his agency will seek to continue to improve how it is utilised.

"It won't happen overnight and the reason we have done that is, we realised that POCA is not widely used as it ought to be, and so we have embarked on this strategy to widen the use of POCA. Which means there are entities that are empowered by POCA: the FID, the Jamaica Customs and MOCA, and so we set about signing these MOUs [memoranda of understanding] so that we can become more cohesive and formalise our working relationship so that we can become more effective as a group of entities," said Hay.

He added that the improvements are evident, even if the public may not see them yet.

However, he cautioned that the FID is still "at the early stage of the strategy and is something we are in for the long haul and it's going to take some time for us to realise benefits that we want to see from the strategy".

In the meantime, brand communications specialist at the FID Garth Williams told the Observer Press Club that the improvement includes an increase in the number of cases which the agency has received from the JCF.

"In former years there would have been some predicate offences where, if you were to dig a little deeper you'd realise that it's not just what you see on the surface, but money laundering offences tied to it. Now we are seeing the JCF looking more at that and sharing more," Williams said.

BY CANDICE HAUGHTON Observer staff reporter haughtonc@jamaicaobserver.com

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