Wednesday, 15 February 2023 11:32

Authorities take aim at people with unexplained wealth

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The Government has again signalled its intention to go after persons with unexplained wealth.

To this end, the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) will be amended in the upcoming fiscal year that begins on April 1, to make it easier for the security forces to pursue individuals with questionable wealth.

Governor-general Sir Patrick Allen spoke to the issue on Tuesday as he delivered the annual Throne Speech inside Gordon House.

He said the POCA is among “key legislative reforms to advance efforts toward realising improved public order, improved public safety, and reduction in crime and violence”.

Sir Patrick said the Government will achieve its stated goal by prioritising amendments to the Finger Prints Act, the Immigration Restriction (Commonwealth Citizens) Act and the Aliens Act as well as the review of the Corrections Act.

The Government firstsignalled its intention to go after persons with unexplainedwealth earlier this month when the Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, disclosed that the Administration will be moving to amend the constitution as part of efforts to help speed up investigations into persons with unexplained wealth.

She was speaking at the opening of the biennial conference of the Financial Investigations Division earlier this month.

Since her disclosure, Opposition Leader Mark Golding has voiced concerns over the approach being taken by the Government to amend sections of the constitution to achieve its stated goal.

Golding subsequently told a newspaper that he had not heard the suggestion before that the constitution would need to be amended before the unexplained wealth orders can be legislated.

"I would like to see a formal legal opinion from the attorney general on that," he said.

Meanwhile, the governor-general said that “in building a secure, cohesive and just Jamaica, Government remains relentless in executing the strategies paramount to safeguarding citizen security”.

He cited the recent passage of the Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act, 2022, which he said is “demonstrative of the Government’s commitment to save lives by addressing the issue of illegal guns”.

“This legislative reform reflects international best practices and updates fines and custodial sentences for offences,” Sir Patrick said.

The governor-general said the government will continue the modernisation of law enforcement with:

• The expansion of the JamaicaEye network

• The inclusion of additional sites to the radio and microwave networks, which are operated by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and

• Continue the construction and renovation of police stations and other facilities.

“At the same time, the Government will continue to partner with critical stakeholders on ongoing initiatives to intensify social investment in identified vulnerable communities,” the governor-general said.

In the meantime, he said, “Jamaica is now in the best position since our Independence to secure our land and marine space through the Jamaica Defence Force. Government will continue to strengthen our coastal protection infrastructure by acquiring additional marine vessels during 2023/2024”.

“Already we are seeing the results of greater interdiction of narcotics, illegal and irregular fishing, and a reduction of the flow of (illegal) guns,” he added.