Money launderers getting off the hook
Describing the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in Jamaica as a powerful tool to tackle money laundering, United States (US) Department of State officials have raised concerns that the legislation is not achieving its desired or intended results, pointing to moderate success only.
Money laundering in Jamaica is primarily related to proceeds from illegal narcotics and weapons trafficking, financial fraud schemes, corruption, and extortion. It is largely perpetrated by organised criminal groups.
In its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released in March, US State Department authorities argue that Jamaican law enforcement and prosecutors tend to pursue related offences to money laundering, which carries less serious consequences, rather than pursuing money laundering as a stand-alone offence.
The US State Department added that in plea bargains, the POCA offences are sometimes dropped.
"To date, the regulatory entities have not used their enforcement authority to sanction reporting entities for identified shortcomings in adherence to AML (anti-money laundering) regulations," the report states.
The report highlights that Jamaica continues to experience a large number of financial crimes related to advance-fee fraud (lottery scams), cybercrime, bulk-cash smuggling, and trade-based fraud. It says that a large number of financial crimes related to cybercrime, including lottery scams, target US citizens.
The US authorities have urged the Jamaican Government to make a concerted effort to identify money laundering-related activities, prosecute political and public corruption, and ensure that financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions are fully compliant with the law.
"Jamaica should also take steps to build the capacity of its law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts in order to successfully prosecute financial crime cases. It should review and modify its case-processing procedures to enhance its ability to prosecute financial crimes efficiently and effectively," the report adds.
Jamaica's Financial Investi-gations Division, which includes the Financial Intelligence Unit, has used the POCA to seize properties and other assets believed to be derived from criminal activities.