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Murders Connected to Lottery Scam Could Hit 200 by Year End, Rural Communities Urged to Break Wall of Silence

Published:Wednesday | October 14, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Peter Bunting

The number of murders connected to the lottery scam in western Jamaica could reach as many as 200 by the end of the year, National Security Minister Peter Bunting has revealed.

Bunting was addressing the Fourth Annual Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.

The minister lamented the fact that the lottery scam is doing considerable harm to Jamaica's reputation, given the coverage of victims in the international media.

He pointed out, however, that the real damage was being done in rural communities, which have become hotbeds for violent crimes.

Speaking against the backdrop of the murder of six persons in Hanover last week, Bunting called for the wall of silence, which protects scammers, to be broken.

"One of the challenges we have is the wall of silence because these lottery scammers are not concentrated ... . Now, they are widely scattered all over the rural areas ... . They embed themselves in these communities, and, perhaps, share a little bit of the wealth, and in turn, they get a wall of silence from the community, but this wall of silence, as it turns out, is really not protecting the communities ... from wanton violence," he said.

He also called upon players in the financial-services sector to work with regulators to tackle the issue.

"As leaders and professionals in the financial industry, you have a responsibility to support the regulatory agencies as well as law enforcement, which seeks to protect the industry from criminal activity, both internal and external," he said.

TACKLING FINANCIAL CRIMES

According to Bunting, the Government has been imple-menting a number of measures to deal with financial crimes.

"As a Government, we are fully aware of the challenges facing the industry, and we continue to work to strengthen our capacity to assist in the prevention, detection, prosecution of financial crimes and crimes related to the financial industry. We are committed to establishing a robust anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing regime," he added.

Speaking further on the issue of lottery scamming, the minister argued that there is a link between white collar crime committed in the financial sector and the violent crimes associated with the lottery scam.

" ... There is a connection between what starts out as white-collar fraud and then translates into very vicious violent crime, so the fight against advance-fee fraud or money laundering is very much going to take place at the level of money-transfer agencies, financial institutions, and I think it is because of the progress we have made in identifying these transactions going through the formal remittance system or banks that the operators in the lottery scam have moved to using money mules."

For Bunting, "Lottery scamming is not some benign, amateurish enterprise carried out by disadvantaged and misguided youths. It is not Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. It is not reparation for slavery. It is one of the most cruel crimes as its victims are the most vulnerable - the elderly - who are relying on lump-sum savings they have to see them through the rest of their lives, and these are the ones the scammers target to rob."

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com