'Deedo' set free, fights for assets
Jamaican authorities are now holding on to nearly $150 million in assets and other properties linked to drug kingpin Norris Nembhard through court-ordered restraint, but the man who has just completed a nine-year prison sentence in the United States has signalled that he is not prepared to give them up without a fight.
Robin Sykes, chief technical director of the Financial Investigations Division (FID) of the Ministry of Finance, confirmed yesterday that a "great house" in St Ann is among six properties that are under restraint through the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA).
"The estimated value, conservatively, would be in the region of $100 to $150 million," Sykes wrote in an email response to The Gleaner about the total value of the restrained properties.
"The great house in St Ann ... that one is extraordinary," a senior law-enforcement official added in reference to the value of the property.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), restraining orders are sought in cases where there is reasonable cause to believe that an alleged offender has benefited from his criminal conduct and are obtained before the ARA goes back to court to have alleged criminal properties forfeited to the State.
However, law-enforcement sources have revealed that Nembhard, popularly known as 'Deedo', has retained top defence attorney Jacqueline Samuels-Brown to file a constitutional motion aimed at blocking the FID's attempt to go after his properties.
Yesterday, Samuels-Brown confirmed that she had filed a motion seeking important interpretations about the application of the POCA legislation.
She said her client's conviction in a US court made no mention of forfeiture proceedings against his assets "anywhere".
"So we are concerned that there is now this attempt to take away his assets," the attorney argued.
"Those of us in the profession would know that cases have gone to the Privy Council [in the United Kingdom] in which decisions that have been made interpreting the Constitution were reviewed and reversed," Samuels-Brown reasoned.
EQUALLY DETERMINED TO FIGHT
But Sykes sought to make it clear that the FID was equally determined to have the multimillion-dollar properties forfeited to the State.
"The agency is committed to ensuring that persons who are engaged in criminality don't benefit from the crime," he asserted.
"So whatever application that is going to be made, we are going to oppose it vigorously," the FID boss insisted.
Nembhard, who was one of several Jamaicans designated as drug kingpins by then US President George Bush in 2004, was given a 13-year prison sentence five years later by US District Judge Susan Buckley.
A check of the US Bureau of Prisons website revealed that he was released on Tuesday.
Nembhard and compatriots Robroy Williams, Glenford Williams, Herbert Henry, and Vivian Daley were sentenced after they pleaded guilty to narcotics charges.
Court documents, including the plea agreements signed by the Jamaicans and co-accused Colombian national Luis Miguel Avila Arias, indicated that the group used Jamaican waters as a trans-shipment point for cocaine moving from Colombia to the US.
The documents, which were cited in a statement released by then US Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Robert O'Neil, indicated that Robroy Williams and Nembhard received "loads of cocaine transported via go-fast vessels from Colombia ranging from 600-1,200 kilograms".
"The loads of cocaine were received by Williams and others ... at various beach locations in Jamaica and stored at rural stash house locations for later distribution in Jamaica and eventually in the United States," the statement said.