Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
With local and United States authorities becoming increasingly concerned about the Jamaica-based lottery scam, which has resulted in the fleecing of millions of dollars from Americans and others, the House of Representatives yesterday displayed uncharacteristic unity, as both sides raced to push through legislation to quash the efforts of the scammers.
The gravity of the occasion was clearly not lost on attentive members from both sides of the parliamentary chamber.
All participants soundly rejected suggestions in the public domain that the ill-got gains from the lottery scam could be regarded as a form of reparation for slavery. National Security Minister Peter Bunting, who piloted the legislation, characterised those suggestions as a cleverly crafted piece of propaganda.
Chorus of rejection
From the onset, both Bunting and his opposition counterpart Delroy Chuck led in the chorus of rejection of the criminal activity, with Member of Parliament for West Central St James (in which much of the illegal activity is centred) Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams declaring her "full support".
Bunting and Chuck lamented the damage the scam had wrought on the renowned Jamaica brand.
"It is threatening the growth of legitimate businesses and stifling investments, particularly in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector," asserted Bunting.
"The level of this scamming cannot be described in suitable terms," added Chuck.
Bunting stressed that legislative and other initiatives by the Government served as a collective, strategic approach against criminal networks engaged in the lottery scam.
"We are doing everything possible to eradicate the scam," he declared.
The Bill, titled The Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, 2013, seeks to target criminal activity known as the lottery scam and other fraud-related activities. The legislation makes new provisions for offences relating to lottery scams, advance-fee fraud and other fraudulent transactions and for connected matters.
Bunting noted that the scam has gained increased international attention with the United States' Senate Special Committee on Ageing stating earlier this year it would bring the matter to the attention of Congress.
"The Committee is expected to have a special sitting this month to discuss the lottery scam and its implications on US citizens," said Bunting.
He referred to reports circulating in January that noted American journalist Dan Rather visited the island to collect footage for a documentary series. The newsmagazine programme 'Dan Rather Reports', is scheduled to begin airing the series next Tuesday on AXS TV.
The minister described the legislation as the culmination of efforts of the Ministry of Justice; the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and other agencies of the Ministry of National Security to strengthen existing offences while covering new ones.