THE GOVERNMENT'S net to catch money launderers has widened following approval by the House of Representatives on Tuesday of an order to amend the Money Laundering Act.
The amendment will bring money transfer and remittance agencies and agents within the ambit of the law and require them to report to the Director of Public Prosecutions transactions of US$50,000 or equivalent. They will also be required to report all suspicious transactions.
This is one of the measures announced by National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips as he outlined his crime plan two weeks ago.
Piloting the order, Dr. Phillips said intelligence had revealed that these remittance services provided an avenue through which persons connected to the drug trade launder their money.
"This represents one effort to plug the loophole which may exist and which facilitates the operations of illicit trade in narcotics which is constituting such a tremendous burden on our people," he said.
Millions of dollars pass through remittance services each year as persons living abroad send home money to their relatives. The central bank has reported an inflow from these services of US$814 million for last year. This is an increase over the US$665.1 million recorded for year 2000 and the US$606.4 million of the previous year.
The order was supported by the Opposition. However, spokesman on Industry Karl Samuda suggested that the US$50,000 threshold for reporting financial transactions should be lowered as money launderers could easily get around the current system by sending money in smaller portions.
He also suggested that Government turn its focus on money launderers, who he said, used their funds to buy goods overseas and sell them below cost in the local market.
"That could be an avenue through which illicitly-gained funds are channelled into Jamaica in the form of goods in the marketplace and serves to erode the efforts of legitimate businessmen," he said.
The Opposition spokesman also called for x-ray machines at the island's airports that could detect drugs in the bodies of persons attempting to smuggle them out of the island. Several 'drug mules' have died attempting to take drugs abroad in this way.
Mr. Samuda noted that if such machines could save one life, then it would have been worth putting them in place.