The Government’s efforts at putting a further dent in advanced fee fraud, also known as the lottery scam, are expected to be significantly boosted with proposed amendments to the Evidence Act.
National Security Minister, Hon. Peter Bunting, says Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, is expected to table a Bill in Parliament shortly to amend the Act, to facilitate the admission of evidence from witnesses in court trials, via video link.
Speaking at a Lottery Scam Forum hosted by Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) at the Terra Nova Hotel, on Wednesday (November 7), Mr. Bunting said the amendment is expected to go a far way in ensuring that lottery scam victims, who are predominantly North American residents, can be facilitated at trials locally without having to come to Jamaica, thereby expediting the timeframe within which the matter is concluded.
“It is very difficult to collect evidence because the victim…is typically an elderly person in…the United States, who is not going to be inclined to come to Jamaica to give evidence in a Jamaican court, particularly when we have the propensity to keep postponing matters,” the Minister argued.
He pointed out that implementation of the video link technology would also facilitate cross-examination of witnesses “which would save those victims for whom it is difficult to travel (from having to come to Jamaica)”.
Mr. Bunting said the video link facility would be incorporated into other matters, such as cases of sexual offences against children “where you have a vulnerable witness/victim, and you want to make it as convenient (as possible) and as minimal (the level of) intimidation (that may arise) in the process of giving evidence”.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bunting informed that Senator Golding has presented a submission to Cabinet, which seeks to have legislation passed to deal with the lottery scam. This, he explained, arose out of the recognition of existing “legislative inadequacies” giving rise to lack of statutory provisions to effectively treat with the matter.
In light of this, he said the Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), undertook a study on effective investigation and prosecution of lottery scams in Jamaica.
Mr. Bunting said several “deficiencies” were identified and the relevant recommendations to address these incorporated in a comprehensive report, which the Justice Ministry received. These included, inter alia, weaknesses in the Cybercrimes Act, which informed Senator Golding’s Cabinet submission. The National Security Minister pointed out, however, that passage of the legislation “is going to take some time because we are starting from scratch”.
Mr. Bunting also advised of efforts that will be made to use the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) “more effectively” in dealing with the lottery scam, particularly the sections related to criminal and civil forfeiture. Additionally, he advised that sections of the Larceny Act would also be treated as offences under POCA.
“Essentially, what that does is to…facilitate (the state) recovering the illicit assets, of persons convicted for those offences by using the Proceed of Crimes Act. The Government is seized with the fact that it (lottery scam) is a Tier One threat to our society, to our economy, (and) to our national security (and the need to treat with it, accordingly),” Mr. Bunting stated.