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Gangsters connected - UWI professor claims criminal organisations still linked to political process

Published:Monday | December 26, 2016 | 12:00 AMJason Cross
Professor Anthony Clayton

Professor Anthony Clayton, University of the West Indies lecturer in the Institute of Sustainable Development, has labeled as unfortunate, what he considers the fact that some of the island’s most dangerous criminal organisations are still very much intertwined with the political process.

Clayton stressed that high-level linkages are being made for criminals, who are offered protection by persons in "high places", through corrupt means.

He was speaking at the inaugural Policing and Security Conference held recently at the Mona Visitor’s Lodge in St Andrew and organised by The Jamaica Constabulary Force and the University of the West Indies Open Campus.

The conference was themed, 'Policing and Security, Strategies and Solutions in Addressing Gangs'.

“Unfortunately and sadly, it’s the case that some of our most serious criminal organisations are still well connected into the political process. You have this rather strange spectacle of low-level criminals, bag carriers, being arrested, and some of the most high-priced attorneys in the country turn up to defend them," Clayton outlined in his presentation, as he spoke of individuals travelling with large sums of cash to be laundered.

"The person who is being arrested never heard of that attorney in their life. Somebody is making that connection for them.”

Clayton also noted that Jamaica has, by far, the largest single concentration of gang members in all of CARICOM, with Trinidad and Tobago coming in second. 

“They are involved in a wide range of criminal activities - narcotics, weapons trafficking, extortion and are now heavily involved in cyber crime, lottery scam, and involved in the misappropriation of public funds, with people getting contracts for things like construction, and a lot of these are going out into criminal networks," Clayton said.

"You have people who are major league criminals but who’ve also got construction enterprises,” Clayton said.

Sherry Ann McGregor, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, McGregor has demanded that proof be provided to support any claims by Clayton of attorneys being involved in illegal practices. 

She however stressed that if any attorneys are involved in such practices, they should be prosecuted as any ordinary citizen would be.

“I would want [Clayton] to provide proof. People keep making comments and I am not sure that it’s backed by facts. What I would say overall is that, if lawyers are involved in criminal activities, they ought to be prosecuted in the same way ordinary individuals are. There is no protection given to lawyers against that,” McGregor stressed.

“If we are going to say that persons who are accused of money laundering should not have the right to legal representation, then where is the presumption of innocence?”