Jamaica: Pending legislation could put dent in lotto scam
THE soon to be tabled amendment to the Evidence Act could be very instrumental in putting a damper on the lotto scam which has threatened to affect the country’s tourism and ICT sectors.
Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said this piece of legislation will allow video evidence and live link evidence to be permissible in court, even if a witnesses is outside of Jamaica.
“…So for example, for the very vulnerable witnesses in the lotto scam such as the elderly who are not inclined to fly down to Jamaica to be a witness in a court case, the live link mechanism will be very important,” Golding said.
The minister, who was addressing a private sector breakfast forum at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston yesterday, said although it seems the proposed legislation has been taking a long time… it has now reached the stage where it can be presented in Parliament.
“I have done a review of the bill and there are some additional work to be done because it covers a lot of issue, not just the live link but I anticipate that it should be tabled by May and passed shortly thereafter,” Golding said.
He said there were also some technological issues to be worked out, but some work has already started in that area.
In the meantime, Security Minister Peter Bunting said the impact of the lotto scam on tourism and investment, because of the damage done to the country’s reputation, is enormous.
With estimates showing that some $300 million has been scammed, mainly from elderly Americans last year alone, Bunting said this is an issue which must be tackled with tremendous resolve.
From a public education point of view, Bunting said the hearts and mind of the people have to be won in fighting this battle because of the cultural acceptance in St James of the lotto scam.
“I did a tour in five communities in St James and in everyone of them I was approached by a citizen who said ‘we like your fight against crime but leave the lotto scammers alone because there are no victims and in any event it is reparation for slavery and it is helping the people’,” Bunting said.
Bunting, who was also addressing yesterday’s private sector breakfast, said the consistent line of reasoning was indicative of a very co-ordinated propaganda campaign by criminal organisations which must be dealt with.
In dealing with the matter, Bunting said the focus would not only be on law enforcement but public education both locally and overseas.
“We have to get involved in the public discussion that is taking place now, and we are going to ramp up in the US where their media have started to focus on the victims and the impact of this and we have to engage them through our public relation agencies to show we are doing something and this is not something where we are complicit or complacent around,” he said.
If this is not successfully portrayed, Bunting said it would have far reaching impact on the tourism industry and the call centre in Montego Bay, which employs some 10,000 people.
“… It is a major threat to our national security and we are going to treat it as such,” the minister said, adding that very few people understand the corrosive impact the lotto scam was having on the society.
In western Jamaica, particularly St James where it is centred, Bunting said it is estimated that about half the murders are related “in one way or another” to the lotto scam.
He said the multi-agency task force which was set up in January to address lotto scam has had some amount of success, having busted three significant rings, arrested scores of persons and seized more than $100 million in assets.