FID being strengthened to go after criminals' assets
Chief technical director of the FID Selvin Hay (second right), with members of the FID team (from left) Garth Williams, brand communications specialist; Charmaine Newsome, legal officer; and Sydonie Greenwood, asset manager, at the Jamaica Observer Press Club last week. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

The Financial Investigations Division (FID) is warning Jamaican criminals that it is ready and prepared to go after any assets they have gained through their crimes, and by the start of the next fiscal year it will have more autonomy and resources to strengthen its potency.

According to Chief Technical Director Selvin Hay, from 2010 when the law was enacted the FID was deemed a department; however, for some reason it was being operated as a division of the Ministry of Finance.

"A lot of work has been done to transform it into a department and come April 1, 2023 it will be designated as such. What that means is that the FID will have more autonomy and a greater staff complement. The autonomy comes with more independence and…it will be better for the staff in terms of the powers and the reach…and additional resources so it ought to be a more effective entity," Hay told reporters and editors at a Jamaica Observer Press Club last week.

At the end of September the FID, a division of the Ministry of Finance, was in control of just over $2 billion in assets which the courts had ordered criminals to forfeit to the State, while it had secured court orders to freeze a further $3 billion in assets believed to have been amassed by criminals.

Among the assets which the courts ordered forfeited this year are 61 properties valued at $1.6 billion, 40 motor vehicles valued at $24 million, and $424 million in cash.

The FID also has 62 properties valued at just over $1 billion, cash of $1.3 billion and 106 motor vehicles valued at $164 million restrained awaiting court approval for them to be forfeited to the State.

Additionally, the just over $5 billion which it has targeted from criminals is an indication of the seriousness in which it is going after ill-gotten gains.

"We want them to appreciate that crime doesn't pay. You cannot expect to deprive people of their hard earnings and then you want to enjoy it. It is sad and we are prepared to go after these gains," declared Charmaine Newsome, the FID's legal officer.

"We are limited in staff but we have motivated staff members. We travel the 14 parishes, we traverse all the courts — from the parish court to the Privy Council — and we will not rest until the success that we are after is gained," added Newsome.

The FID enjoyed recent success when the Court of Appeal ordered ex-cop-turned-drug dealer Andrew Hamilton to forfeit more than $500 million in assets deemed to be obtained illegally and Hay said that this is the level of success the FID is aiming for.

In a word of caution to people involved in, or considering lottery scamming, Hay warned that once they are arrested and convicted, locally or overseas, any assets that they might have amassed will be targeted by the FID.

"We are willing and able to do that. We would encourage any young person not to take that path because it is detrimental to their future and it is also detrimental to the future of the country.

"It weakens our financial system and our international reputation and there is no good that comes from it apart from your personal gain, which is very short term," declared Hay.

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-Large

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