Channel proceeds of crime into at-risk rehab
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The suggestion made by member of parliament for Central St James and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Lloyd B. Smith, that business owners benefitting from the proceeds of lottery scamming and other criminal activities, should make a contribution to social-intervention programmes that target at-risk youths, deserves attention. It must be given practical effect because it is a good idea.
It was reported in this newspaper on August 5, 2015, that the deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime, Glenmore Hinds, had questioned whether dirty money should be allowed into the economy. It is interesting that Hinds would be calling for civil society to oppose Smith's suggestion, when, in fact, the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) enables the Government to place cash seized from criminals' ill-gotten gains into the Consolidated Fund for expenditure.
No one in his right mind could ever deny that lottery scamming, drug and firearms trafficking, and other crimes of moral turpitude run contrary to the laws of the land. Hinds reasoned that it may not be wise to contribute the proceeds of crime to our economy, but that reasoning betrays what currently obtains in our society.
The Government of Jamaica places the proceeds of crime into the Consolidated Fund, which is used for its expenses. The fact that legitimate businesses pay taxes means it is very likely that, at some point, criminal money was spent to support that business in order for the Government to rake in tax revenue, and we all know that it is not refused.
What, then, is the difference between the proceeds of crime being placed into the Consolidated Fund and the proceeds of crime from businesses being used to fund social projects to enable our at-risk youths to become productive members of society?
The tourism and entertainment minister, Wykeham McNeill, said the proceeds from the criminal activities bear negative effects on the country's development. No one disagrees with that either and no right-thinking citizen would advocate for the proceeds of crime to fuel our economy.
However, the same could be said for the proceeds placed into the Consolidated Fund, since there are negative effects from those seizures under the POCA legislation as well. It is six of one, half-dozen of the other.
Practical and sustainable measures must be put in place by the security forces to address rampant crime, including lottery scamming. It cannot be the end-all that criminal money is the root of mayhem. Why not utilise those proceeds to create better opportunities and contribute to the education of vulnerable youth, creating employment for them, that would ultimately minimise the risks of them getting involved in criminal activities?
Smith was correct when he argued that legitimate businesses benefit, and, quite significantly, if I may add, from lottery scamming, and that there is no legislation that can compel a business owner to relinquish the funds obtained from the scamming. Perhaps such legislation needs to be enacted for the obvious purposes, since no business is likely to relinquish those funds by their own volition.
Only effective crime-fighting measures and social-intervention projects can put a dent in the proliferation of criminal activities. This is one of those rare occasions that a good thing may be borne from a bad thing.