Historic criminal lifestyle penalty - Judge orders convicted drug dealer to pay state $17.5 million
A High Court judge, in a landmark ruling, has ordered a Westmoreland man convicted for drug possession, nearly five years ago, to pay the Government $17.5 million as a penalty for the benefits he derived from a criminal lifestyle.
Justice Vivienne Harris made the pecuniary penalty order against Ralph Gregg under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) on Wednesday, marking the first time such an order has been made in Jamaica.
"It, therefore, sets the precedent for how matters of this nature are to be conducted and is the first step in developing the jurisprudence in Jamaica," said the Financial Investigations Division (FID), which applied for the order.
Gregg has until August 28 to make the payment.
Court records indicate that he was convicted in the then Westmoreland Resident Magistrate Court on April 23, 2013, for possession of and dealing in cocaine.
Following the conviction, the FID sought and obtained an order for Gregg to be committed to the Home Circuit Court for an examination of any benefits he may have derived from his criminal conduct.
The agency argued before Justice Harris that because of the conviction, Gregg was deemed to have a criminal lifestyle as defined in POCA.
"The offence of dealing in cocaine is listed in the Second Schedule of POCA. Pursuant to Section 6 of POCA, a person convicted of an offence listed in the Second Schedule shall be regarded as having a criminal lifestyle," FID explained.
The agency said that once an individual is determined to have a criminal lifestyle, Section 8 of POCA allows the courts to assume, among other things, that any property transferred to such person or the expenditure the individual makes "after the relevant day" was obtained as a result of criminal conduct.
The 'relevant day', as defined in POCA, is the 10-year period that elapsed before criminal proceedings commenced against the convicted person.
The FID revealed that as part of its case, it had obtained financial records showing deposits and expenditures made by Gregg as well as assets he acquired over the 10 years.
Gregg indicated in court that all his assets and expenditures came from his legitimate employment as a carpenter in Canada. However, according to court records, he presented no documentation to support this assertion.