Jamaica has frozen more than $8 million in assets, some belonging to alleged drug traffickers, as the country rolls out legislation to target illicitly obtained funds and money laundering.
The seizures, a result of 14 orders obtained last year by the country’s Financial Investigations Division (FID), came under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) that was enacted in 2007 and gives the state powers to seize property and finances obtained through drug trafficking and/or money laundering. Three of the 14 cases alone accounted for close to $6 million, according to the Jamaican newspaper Gleaner.
Assets seized included vehicles, real estate, bank accounts and jewellery. Among those targeted were white-collar workers, alleged drug traffickers living overseas, and people involved in a lottery scam.
The head of FID, Albert Stephens, told the Gleaner that in addition to these assets, the agency seized more than $1.5 million in cash in 2011.
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The announcement of these successes came soon after Jamaica’s national security minister, Peter Bunting, stated that legislation is being advanced to expand the act’s remit to give agencies the ability to seize assets of those complicit in illicit activity and who actively facilitate it.
The Jamaican Observer comments that this expansion is “long overdue,” pointing to the fact that high-level criminals have been increasingly turning to professionals well versed in this area of the law to hide their illicit assets from law enforcement agencies.
Jamaica was listed as a country of “concern” on the US State Department’s most recent annual report on money laundering and financial crimes. The island’s banks are used by transnational criminal organizations, particularly Colombian, to channel illicit funds due to their comparatively weak regulation, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.