Both National Security and Justice Minister K.D. Knight (left) and Richard Smyth, Charge d'affaires in the United States Embassy find something to laugh about as they prepare to sign an agreement which clears the way for both countries to share the assets of criminals seized in joint operations. The signing took place at Mr. Knight's Oxford Road Ministry. - Dennis Coke
ASSETS BELONGING to criminals and which are seized in joint operations between the United States and Jamaica can now be divided equally between the two countries.
This is made possible by yesterday's signing of an Asset Sharing Agreement between both countries, during a formal function at the Ministry of National Security and Justice.
K.D. Knight, Minister of National Security and Justice signed on behalf of the Jamaican Government while Richard Smyth, Charge d'affaires at the US Embassy, signed for his country.
"We have been negotiating this for quite some time and we have now settled on a document which is in keeping with our statutory provision and the law that is applicable in the United States," Mr. Knight said. He explained that the law makes provision for the confiscated assets to be used in the areas of health, education and national security. As such the assets will not go to the Consolidated Fund.
The Security Minister said his aim was to hit criminals where it hurt most -- in their pockets. "Quite apart from us benefiting from assets, the more we are able to seize the assets of criminals then the less they will become involved in criminal activity because I see this more as a deterrent rather than as a way of funding projects," he stressed. "The more successful we are (in seizing assets) then the more criminal activity will be a disincentive to the greedy," he added.
"We are all aware of the debilitating effect (of drugs) on our economy and our people," Mr. Knight said while pledging the full co-operation of the Jamaican Government under the agreement. He said yesterday's signing represented one of the most important steps in the fight against drugs.
Agreements of this nature are encouraged by the 1998 United Nations Convention Against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances which requires signature states to confiscate the assets of convicted drug traffickers.
The Jamaican Government, under a similar agreement with Canada, handed over $127,000 to that Government last October. The money represented 50 per cent of funds forfeited from convicted Jamaican drug trafficker, Edward Robinson. Earlier, in July 1999, the Jamaican Supreme Court, acting on an application from the Supreme Court of Ontario, Canada, forfeited two local accounts belonging to Robinson.
The accounts were deemed to contain the proceeds of crimes, including possession of, selling and dealing in ganja, committed by Robinson in Canada, and for which he was convicted in that country.
Meantime, Mr. Knight said Cabinet will soon be asked to give the go ahead for Jamaica to sign the United Nations Convention Against Organised Crime.