OCID making significant strides against transnational criminals


The Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Organized Crime Investigation Division (OCID) has been making significant inroads into transnational criminal activities, since its inception in 1990.
Transnational crimes are illicit activities occurring across national jurisdictional borders or when the attendant consequences, emanating from the country of origin, significantly impact another country.
These activities include: human trafficking and people smuggling; trafficking/smuggling of goods, such as arms and drugs; sex slavery; pedophilia; and (non-domestic) terrorism. When carried out in a “structured” manner by criminal syndicates, they are referred to as transnational organised crimes.
Head of OCID, which investigates these matters, Superintendent Fitz Bailey, informs JIS News that one of the areas significantly impacted by sustained law enforcement efforts, resulting in a dent in the attendant illicit activities, is financial crimes. These are unlawful activities yielding monetary gains.
The two areas which have figured prominently in police investigations, particularly over the last five years, are fraud and money laundering, a level of activity which Supt. Bailey describes as “significant”.
Supt. Bailey says that the proceeds generated and the assets acquired by unscrupulous persons engaging in financial crimes, over the past five years, have amounted to upwards $15 billion. He notes that significant seizures and arrests have also been made, consequent on law enforcement interventions.
He points to corporate fraud as one of the commonest areas of illicit activities occurring, particularly within financial institutions. Credit card scams, he says, has been one of the primary areas where this has manifested, pointing out that financial institutions have been defrauded in excess of $6 billion between 2005 and 2009.
Noting that OCID works closely with the Financial Investigation Division (FID) of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, among other entities, Supt. Bailey says all stakeholders have, jointly, made significant breakthroughs in a number of fraud and money laundering cases. He says that between 2005 and 2009, some 2,633 cases of fraud were investigated, and the assets and cash seized and forfeited, included J$6.3 billion, US$6.9 million, over 84,000 pounds and 11,000 Euro.
“In addition to that, in a civil forfeiture provision, one motor vehicle, valued at $1.8 million, was seized and there is another $2.6 million lodged to a local account, that has also been seized,” he states.
He adds that there is also a case, currently before the court, involving some US$1.4 million, another $9 million and US$447,000 that are expected to be forfeited.
Between January and June, the OCID had 251 cases, of which 118 were cleared up, representing 47.2 per cent in terms of arrests. The amounts of money involved were $168.9 million, US$728,809 and 900 pounds.
Supt. Bailey says the lottery scam, evolving out of Montego Bay, has also figured in prominently financial crimes. In one instance in 2008, over US$30 million was fleeced from individuals residing in one state in the United States.
He said that the problem with the lottery scam is that the funds it generates are used to support criminal enterprises, for instance the Stone Crusher Gang (operating out of St. James).
“They benefit significantly. Not only do we find that (general) transnational crime problem with the lottery scam, but we also find internal problems in terms of extortion, where people within Montego Bay extort each other. (So if) you are involved somebody (tries to) extort you. If you fail to pay the extortion money, you are killed,” he explains.
In addition, the proceeds from the lottery scam are used to purchase weapons and a lot of the masterminds of the lottery scams acquire weapons for themselves, he states. He also laments that the phenomenon is so widespread that it impacts even young people.
“You find teenagers having significant properties. The lifestyle that we see perpetrated through the lottery scam, it’s appalling, it’s shocking. In Montego Bay you find (that) people meet, sometimes, and they burn money.they literally compete with each other to see who can burn the most money. We have identified over 400 murders that have been linked to the lottery scam, so it’s a significant problem,” he says.
Supt. Bailey says that law enforcement efforts in arresting money laundering challenges have been fairly successful. Money laundering is the process of creating the appearance that money, obtained illicitly, originated from legitimate sources.
He discloses that investigations conducted over the past three years have resulted in 226 files being opened since 2007, including 37 this year, and 34 persons being arrested and charged in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crimes Act (POCA). The matters being investigated include: seven asset forfeiture cases; 176 cash seizures; and six civil recovery cases, the latter being attempts to recover assets through the civil process.
The senior officer points out that of the 226 cases, 177 have been disposed of through the courts in terms of fines and convictions. Total assets which were seized over the period amounted to approximately $290 million.
“If you look, for instance, at some of those alternative investment schemes, I believe there was a great opportunity for a lot of organised criminal networks to have laundered money, because there (was) no regulation in those types of operations. Those unregulated schemes have seen significant amounts of monies passing through them,” he states.
Supt. Bailey attributes the division’s success in these two areas to the hard work of its members, as well as the partnerships established with stakeholders with whom they have been collaborating.
“We operate with almost every organisation in the country. Customs we work closely with the Internal Revenue Department, we work closely with the FID, when necessary (and) Immigrations. We also work closely with financial institutions; banks, cambios, and money transfer organisations,” he says.
In addition, the OCID has external partners from the United States working with, closely.
“There are times where we get people from different agencies…(and) we approach our investigations from a collaborative task force perspective. So we have good inter-agency co-operation,” he says.
“We get a lot of cooperation from some civilians. They provide support for us, sometimes covertly, as you have to protect their identity. We cannot do law enforcement without the assistance of the public they are our eyes and ears,” he adds.
Regarding the way forward, Supt. Bailey says that OCID will be endeavouring to support the strategic objective of the Police Commissioner.
“We want to ensure that, by our efforts and support to the people of Jamaica, (and) the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) there is a reduction in crimes, and the end result is that all of us can have a safe and secure society,” Supt. Bailey says.

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