Mon | May 20, 2019

Prove sources of wealth or be locked up – Mitchell - PSOJ boss proposes tough laws to crush corruption

Published:Friday | February 8, 2019 | 10:02 AM
Howard Mitchell, president of the PSOJ, addresses a Rotary Club of Kingston meeting at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Thursday.

Collaring corrupt criminal actors and untouchables will require the Government to adopt tougher legislation that forces them to prove their sources of wealth or be thrown into prison, says Howard Mitchell, leader of Jamaica’s most powerful business lobby.

In a scathing 20-minute address at Thursday’s Rotary Club of Kingston luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, Mitchell slammed the authorities for being too soft on corruption.

“I am suggesting that we adopt two pieces of legislation (even temporarily) from the United Kingdom. We need the power to apply to a Supreme Court judge for an order to detain and question to the satisfaction of the authorities persons who demonstrate wealth and resources without obvious evidence of how they obtained them,” said Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ). “It is called an Unexplained Wealth Order, and it could be a useful tool in the fight against corruption and against the financiers of gang activity.”

SEPARATE LAW

Mitchell told the audience that he would support a separate law (on a temporary basis) that would, with the prior approval of the court, allow for the indefinite and isolated detention of persons who present a clear and present danger to the State, even if the allegations or suspicions fall short of evidentiary burden of law.

“That order could be subject to periodic review by a civic tribunal properly established,” said Mitchell, who is an attorney-at-law. “Again, none of these measures can be successful without the will and intent of our leadership.”

Currently, the only measure in law that allows for indefinite detention is a state of emergency, which suspends constitutional rights, with minor exceptions. But even the extension of emergency powers is subject to two-thirds approval in the House of Representatives.

Mitchell used the occasion to call on the political directorate to “cease and desist from the game playing and mealy-mouthed avoidance of the truth”.

Widening his address to his private-sector colleagues and church leaders, the outspoken PSOJ president ripped into them for accepting the status quo.

“It is time to take a stand and demand that we, as a country, put an end to this charade. This hypocrisy of punishing little foot soldiers while allowing the generals and masterminds of corruption and contraband smuggling and gang warfare to get away with murder and mayhem. [It] must stop,” demanded Mitchell.

Last week, Transparency International released its 2018 Corruption Perception Index results, which showed that Jamaica had slipped two points and is now ranked 70 out of 180 countries, with a score of 44. Jamaica also scored 44 in 2017 and 39 in 2016.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com