Convicted drug boss appeals seizure of $500m in assets
Andrew Hamilton, the Jamaican drug boss who was ordered by the court to turn over a portfolio of assets valued at more than $500 million to the Government, has made a last-gasp attempt to hold on to them. Lawyers for Hamilton and members of his...
Andrew Hamilton, the Jamaican drug boss who was ordered by the court to turn over a portfolio of assets valued at more than $500 million to the Government, has made a last-gasp attempt to hold on to them.
Lawyers for Hamilton and members of his family who were the registered owners of some of the assets have filed an application in the Court of Appeal seeking leave to challenge the forfeiture order made by the Supreme Court, according to documents seen by The Sunday Gleaner on Friday.
The application also seeks a stay of the order, made on July 8, which stripped the convicted drug dealer, members of his family and associates of 14 multimillion-dollar homes; four motor vehicles; four bulldozers; a fishing vessel purchased for $19 million and a bank account with $19 million.
It is the largest forfeiture order obtained by the Financial Investigations Division (FID), the agency that enforces Jamaica’s Proceeds of Crime Act, the legislation crafted to deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains.
The homes include a penthouse suite and two apartments in the gated Norbrook Ritz complex, located in the upscale neighbourhood of Norbrook, St Andrew; six apartments in the gated Monte Carlo Isle complex, also in St Andrew; and a mansion in Ironshore, St James.
Ian Wilkinson, KC, whose law firm represents Hamilton and some of his relatives, had agreed to a Sunday Gleaner interview to discuss the basis for the application last week, but subsequent attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.
The application is set to be heard on Tuesday by a panel of three judges and a decision is expected a week later.
REMAINING ASSETS FROZEN
FID officials and the agency’s lead attorney, Caroline Hay, KC, declined comment on the latest legal move by Hamilton, a former Jamaican cop and postal worker who is believed to have amassed a $1-billion asset portfolio, comprising more than two dozen luxury homes and cars.
The remainder of his assets has been frozen by a restraint order issued by the Supreme Court, the FID previously told The Sunday Gleaner.
Among the assets ordered frozen by the court is a house located in the central Jamaica town of Mandeville worth US$1.2 million or over J$181 million, according to the FID.
Hamilton’s empire began crumbling in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy to deal in ganja in a United States court. He was sentenced in February 2014 to four years in prison, records show.
Following the conviction, the US Drug Enforcement Agency requested that Jamaican authorities conduct a civil investigation into Hamilton’s assets here and that’s when the FID discovered the drug dealer’s staggering wealth.
A review of court records showed that five of the Monte Carlo Isle apartments and the lots for two of the Norbrook units were acquired over a seven-day period, ending on June 25, 2008, for a total of J$61 million and US$300,000.
The others were acquired two days apart in March that year.
All the assets were acquired between 1998 and 2009 and registered to Hamilton, his relatives, including his elderly mother, friends and associates, according to the FID.
‘NEVER MET THE MAN’
Devon Evans, chief executive officer of Northamerican Holdings, which developed the Monte Carlo Isle complex, sought to make it clear that his company followed the real estate law and was not complicit in Hamilton’s acquisition of the apartments.
“We did not personally communicate with any of these people. We don’t even know them, which is typical in real estate [transactions],” Evans told The Sunday Gleaner.
“We never met the man. We don’t know who the man is and we don’t know his straw buyers,” he said, referring to Hamilton and his associates.
Evans disclosed that the transactions were handled by real estate agents and attorneys for both sides “who would have acted and gotten all these possession letters, keys, transfers and titles for these people”.
“The sad thing about it is that’s the real estate law in Jamaica,” said the developer.
He disclosed, too, that the Monte Carlo Isle project was funded through a $200-million loan from Jamaican financial institution First Global Bank.
Hamilton and members of his family were arrested by the Jamaican police in December 2016 on money laundering charges, along with attorney Dawn Satterswaite, who is accused of fronting the real estate purchases.
That case is ongoing.