Durrant Pate, Gleaner Writer
The Financial Investigation Division (FID) of the Ministry of Finance is increasing its effort to secure the forfeiture of $18 million in local and foreign currencies seized from convicted Matthews Lane strongman, Donald 'Zeeks' Phipps in May 2005.
Days after the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council turned down an appeal by Zeeks against his life sentence, The Sunday Gleaner has confirmed that the FID has new information which it believes will bolster its case now before the Supreme Court.
The money, J$10 million, US$100,000, and £9,000, was found by the police in a house in Havendale, St Andrew, reportedly owned by Zeeks.
That was the second time the police were confiscating a large portion of cash from the then Matthews Lane strongman.
In the first case, the State was forced to return the money totalling more than $9 million, (US$43,000 and J$6.3 million), following the intervention of Zeeks' legal team headed by Queens Council K. Churchill Neita.
But last week police sources told The Sunday Gleaner that the authorities would not be making the same mistake twice, as there is overwhelming evidence to show that the $18 million was not obtained through legitimate means.
According to the sources, in the case of the $9 million, Zeeks was able to point to a number of legitimate business interests he had through which the money was obtained.
The sources say this time around that will be more difficult to prove despite the fact the State dropped a charge of unlawful possession of the money which was levelled against Zeeks and his girlfriend Yvonne Sailsman after the police seized the $18 million.
When contacted last week, chief technical director of the FID, Albert Stephens confirmed that a strong case is being prepared for the money to be forfeited but he would not disclose the strategy to be employed.
However, Stephens was confident that the court will rule in the State's favour.
The forfeiture hearing is to be heard during the next session of the Supreme Court, which starts in September.
Stephens confirmed information reaching The Sunday Gleaner that the FID is sifting through the mountain of information presented during the murder trial and subsequent appeals brought by Zeeks, challenging his double murder conviction.
He said this is being done with a view of picking pertinent information to add to its forfeiture case.
No ruling on missing funds
In the meantime, The Sunday Gleaner has learnt that the director of public prosecutions (DPP) is yet to rule if anyone should be criminally responsible for the $17 million in cash that went missing from a vault at FID in October 2007.
A portion of that money came from $18 million confiscated from Zeeks and has not been recovered.
The Major Investigation Task Force, which was called in to investigate the disappearance of the money, interviewed several employees of the FID but was unable to lay charges against anyone.
Former assistant commissioner of police Les Green, who led the investigation, told The Sunday Gleaner that in its ruling, the DPP found no one criminally responsible but recommended that a number of officers be subjected to disciplinary actions.
"No action could be taken because all the people have left," Green explained.
The remaining portion of the money seized from Zeeks, is being kept for evidence, and stored at the Bank of Jamaica in downtown Kingston.