Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, says plans are far advanced for the Evidence Act to be amended, which will allow for the appearance of witnesses by video, for possible prosecution of lotto scammers.
"It is very difficult to get prosecutions for scamming and we have no specific legislation that deals with 'advanced fee fraud' which is the generic term for scamming," Mr. Bunting pointed out, as he addressed a stakeholders meeting at the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on September 20.
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"When you look at our existing laws they require the scamming victims to come forward to give evidence. This is very difficult because the victims generally are remote, and they are elderly people who are not inclined to travel far distances, and to interface with a court system that tends to postpone cases multiple times," the Minister said.
He emphasised that the time has come for the activities of the police to be fully supported with changes to legislations.
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"For example, we can do some quick amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to bring some of the lotto scamming activities under this Act, which will allow us to more easily forfeit some of the illicit proceeds. We are also working on the Anti-gang Legislation and others. Hopefully, within another two weeks, they will be able to bring something to Cabinet to amend the Evidence Act, so that victims don’t have to travel from America to Jamaica," Mr. Bunting said.
He explained that video evidence would also be very useful for victims of rape or children who have to testify.
"We also want to make some amendments to the Larceny Act, which we feel can also apply to the lotto scam. By next year we will need to look at a specific piece of legislation to deal with this category of crime called Advanced Fee Fraud, where we would make it an offence for persons to have such things as lead lists, magic jack and all the paraphernalia associated with scamming in their possession," the Minister said.
He indicated that the primary objective is to preserve the over 10,000 jobs existing at the Free Zone Call Centres and the other thousands of jobs in tourism.
"If we don't contain this lottery scam now, then all of this will be threatened. I therefore call on the churches to take a lead in this crusade …just make it clear to the youth that scamming is robbery. It is robbery just as much as if you had held up somebody at knife point or gun point. You are a thief and a criminal,” Mr. Bunting said.
He noted that lotto scamming activities have led to an escalation of criminal activities across western Jamaica, and that some 50 per cent of murders committed in recent times could be blamed on this illicit trade.
Earlier, the Minister led a combined team from his office and the Montego Bay business community, on a tour of police stations across sections of St. James, to get first-hand knowledge of the immediate needs of the police personnel.