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Prosecute lawyers who help in money laundering too - Bar Association attorney

Published:Monday | March 23, 2015 | 4:31 PMBarbara Gayle Justice Coordinator

The attorney for the Jamaican Bar Association (JBA) has asserted that lawyers who breach the law by helping their clients engage in money laundering and terrorism should be prosecuted like anyone else.

Queen’s Counsel, Richard Mahfood, made the assertion as he made submissions on behalf of the Bar Association in its constitutional claim against amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

Amendments made last year to the Financial Investigation Division and the POCA, make it mandatory for lawyers to report instances of financial crimes.

The Constitutional Court, comprising justices, Paulette Williams, David Fraser and Sharon George, this morning began hearing submissions from the parties in the suit.

Mahfood argued this morning in court that making it mandatory for lawyers to report on their dealings with clients in order to tackle the problem is a breach of attorney-client privilege.

The JBA's lawyer told the court that the association agrees that money laundering and terrorism are harmful and must be addressed by the government.

However, he said this should not be done by imposing legal duties on attorneys at law by the enforcement of harsh criminal punishments.

He also argued that many countries including the United States have dealt effectively with money laundering without invoking duties on lawyers.

The JBA has obtained an injunction which prevents the implementation of the contested amendments.

Other professions affected by the new requirements include Public Accountants, Real Estate Dealers, Casino and Gaming Machine Operators.

Solicitor General Nicole Foster Pusey is representing the State.