Wed | Feb 21, 2018

Pay attention to white-collar crime, urges British high commissioner

Published:Friday | February 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Ahmad

Class and social status must not have a role in who is sent to jail for corruption and other white-collar crimes in the island, says British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad.

The former banker of 20 years says that this "subtler" form of crime has been given elements of respectability while the focus remains on common criminals.

Ahmad was delivering his welcome address during the Financial Investigations Division Conference, which got under way on Wednesday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston. The conference, which ended yesterday, was held under the theme 'Taking the Profit Out of Crime'.

"Let me say that in some respects, we all recognise the common criminal, the hold-upper, the guy who pulls a gun and the person who robs you, but somehow we have given corruption and white-collar crime some element of respectability," Ahmad said.

"But there is, in my view, no business class in the matter of crime. The only place for them is where the rest of them belong, which is jail, and for them to forfeit the proceeds of their crime."

 

THE WILL TO ACT GLOBALLY

 

Ahmad said that the notion that some are owed respect because they sit behind a computer or because they are in government or are politicians is flawed at best.

He reasoned that what Jamaica needs is the will to act globally and to strengthen regulatory and judiciary institutions so that justice is seen as equitable and fair to all.

"Just imagine, if a country that loses 30 per cent of its growth through corruption, if crime swipes away even more of our people that earn, those could be translated into medical treatment for critical illnesses. That [cost] for treatment could turn into education.

"That is what these criminals are robbing us of. They are robbing us of life, liberty, and prosperity. That is the essence of what we are trying to achieve through the act of taking the profit out of crime," said Ahmad.

He said that the same infrastructure that was created for banking is the same infrastructure used for illicit purposes and that it requires a steadfast approach of inclusiveness to bring both the common and white-collar criminals to book.

It is estimated in some conservative circles that crime is costing Jamaica's taxpayers approximately J$68 billion per year, while some also believe that if white-collar crimes were to be factored in, the figure could be triple that amount.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com