Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
SAY NO to cash, at least large amounts of it for one-off transactions. That is a direction in which Justin Felice, head of the Financial Investigations Division (FID), is encouraging the Government to head as part of a move to clamp down on illicit activities such as the lottery scam.
"We all know that the lotto scammers like flashy vehicles, high-end vehicles and then go and buy high-end vehicles using suitcases full of cash. They go and buy their properties with suitcases full of cash. We have got to say in Jamaica, we don't accept cash," Felice said.
"You have to put your money in a bank account; you have to put a sign up saying 'no cash'. You have got to stop it and you have to stop it quickly," he added.
The FID boss was speaking during a forum on the lottery scam hosted by Jamaica National at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew yesterday.
Felice echoed a call from Leighton Mitchell, a member of the Jamaica Bankers' Association anti-fraud committee, who called for the regulation of non-financial institutions. These entities include real estate agents, dealers in precious metals and stones, lawyers, accountants and trust and company service providers.
Felice is of the view that car dealerships should be added to that list, and argued that regulations for non-financial institutions are an urgent requirement.
"We need it now, not tomorrow," he said.
In the meantime, Felice said the Government should move more aggressively in seizing assets which are the proceeds of crime and direct the proceeds to developmental areas such as justice reform and community development.
"You need to invest in asset recovery," he charged the Government. "You need to put some money in it now to tackle the lottery scam problems. Because arresting people, prosecuting people before the court is extremely difficult; seizing their assets is a way to take away everything."
Demonstrating the power the seizure of assets can have in tackling activities such as the lottery scam, Felice said lawyers have been constantly knocking at his door since he became FID head three months ago.
"Already lawyers are knocking at our doors when there are forfeiture orders, wanting to do a deal because they want to keep a house for their mother. I have never seen lawyers before knocking on the door saying, 'I want to do a deal, please'," Felice said.