Fri | Dec 15, 2017

MOCA hits marks - Agency focuses on key FLA employees; explosive letter alleges rampant corruption

Published:Saturday | August 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Dirk Harrison

Police investigators are narrowing down on key employees at the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) in an expanding corruption probe at the scandal-hit agency, which remains without a board.

The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) has been given names of persons of interest identified in the investigation being conducted by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), a source close to the police probe has told The Gleaner.

Those names go with the list already prepared by MOCA, which, last week, visited the FLA's Old Hope Road head office twice to remove files critical to the probe into allegations that more than 100 licences have been issued to people of questionable character. MOCA has said that it does not speak on ongoing matters.

 

Damning allegations

 

The developments come as an explosive May 17, 2017 letter with damning allegations against senior FLA officials makes the rounds. The letter was allegedly penned by a staff member of the beleaguered agency, whose board resigned last month as public pressure mounted over its alleged role in the scandal.

The letter was sent to Contractor General Dirk Harrison, but was copied to the prime minister's office; National Security Minister Robert Montague; his opposition counterpart, Peter Bunting; and then FLA chairman Dennis Wright.

The staff member named five FLA officials as the architects of "rife and blatant" corruption at the agency, where they allegedly "abuse, intimidate and bully" staff. It would be "devastating" if leaked to the media, the whistle-blower said.

"It was my intention to write to the FLA about the issue of corruption involving persons currently employed to the FLA," wrote the "concerned employee", who pointed to the manipulation of systems and romantic involvement of the "loyal cohorts" of the named chief enabler. "These persons should have no business being associated with the FLA. I chose to write to you as I am not confident that anything would come of my concerns."

Patrick Powell file allegedly shredded

One of the damning claims from a whistle-blower out of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) is that documents relating to Patrick Powell, the man freed in the X6 murder trial, were destroyed using a shredder borrowed from a department, to which it is yet to be returned.

In another instance, the staffer said that an official "repeatedly breaks protocols and repeatedly seeks to instruct others to do so to meet the desires of those from whom [they] have collected monies for such favours".

"You apply for a firearm licence; it's approved. However, having received approval, you then seek to have the approval transferred to John Doe. This is wrong," the letter sent by the whistle-blower added. It urged the Office of the Contractor General to set up a sting operation to catch the players in their acts.

Dennis Wright was the FLA chairman and a former election candidate for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party. Days before he and four other members resigned, Wright defended the board, saying that "it has not been doing anything that may be considered corrupt or bad practice".

When contacted, Harrison said: "No comment". Questions on the matter were sent to the national security ministry. Up to press time, there was no response.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com