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FID happy with court ruling involving US$1.3 million seizure

Published:Saturday | December 19, 2015 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle

THE COURT of Appeal has thrown out an appeal brought by Delores Elizabeth Miller, who challenged a Supreme Court ruling which had declared that the government-owned Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) had the right to seize assets, including US$1.3 million, which was found in a refrigerator in a house in Portmore, St Catherine. The Financial Investigation Division (FID) and the ARA issued a statement disclosing that they were happy with the court ruling.

However, Miller told The Gleaner yesterday that she will be taking the issue to the United Kingdom-based Privy Council.

The ARA had filed an application in the Supreme Court against Rohan Anthony Fisher, Delores Elizabeth Miller, Ricardo Fisher, and Karen Vassell.

Yesterday's court ruling has resulted in the forfeiture of cash and assets, including US $1,350,300.00 found in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator, cash deposits made on parcels of real estate in Hellshire, St Catherine, and lots at Plantation Village, St Ann, two motor cycles and a motor van, and bank balances consisting of Jamaican and United States currencies at several financial institutions in Jamaica.

The case originated in June 2007, one month after the Proceeds of Crime Act (2007) came into effect. It was the result of a joint investigation involving the FID, the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Transnational Crime and Narcotics Division (TCND), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from the United States.

A search operation was conducted at Miller's home in West Cumberland, St Catherine. During the search, US$1,350,300 cash was found in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator and was seized. Further financial investigations identified other property and assets, which were also the subject of the court action.

The FID and the ARA instigated proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2007) in the Supreme Court, contending that the assets identified were the proceeds of crime and, as such, were "recoverable property" under the legislation and should be forfeited under civil recovery proceedings provided for under the Act.

Unlawful conduct

Justice Donald McIntosh (retired) heard the matter and in 2012 ruled in favour of the FID and the ARA. The judge found that the cash and other assets represented directly or indirectly the proceeds of unlawful conduct carried out by the Fishers. The judge had ordered that the assets of the respondents be seized.

Yesterday, the court dismissed the appeal and affirmed McIntosh's decision. Written reasons will be delivered at a later date.

"The FID takes this opportunity to thank all those involved in the case, including the dedicated and persistent officers of the ARA and the FID, our partners from the TCND, as well the US DEA, whose evidence was critical to the case. The division remains committed to removing the profits of those engaged in crime or into whose hands the proceeds of crime flow," the FID said in a statement.