We expect the civil-liberty extremists to howl against the so-called lottery scam legislation that was passed last week by Jamaica's Parliament.
They will, in particular, resent Section 14 of the bill which allows, at the trial of persons accused of cyberfraud and related crimes, for information that such persons possess property, disproportionate to their known sources of income, and for which they cannot satisfactorily account, be taken as corroborating evidence.
Fundamental constitutional arguments might even flow from such concerns. These we will leave the court to decide.
In the meantime, we urge the authorities to move with speed to complete the legislative process and implement the law, even as they anticipate any challenges and figure out ways to accomplish the aims of the existing bill.
For even as this newspaper respects the views of the civil libertarians, we understand that Jamaica faces a crisis - one that threatens its relationships with global partners, the advancement of its economy, and the creation of jobs.
SWINDLING THE ELDERLY
Indeed, yesterday in the US Senate, its Special Committee on Ageing opened a hearing into the lottery scam, the scheme in which mostly old people are swindled out of money by being told they have won prizes, but which they can only claim by remitting cash to pay certain charges.
The US Federal Trade Commission estimates that America's elderly are each year defrauded of about US$1 billion through such schemes. The rub is that most of them seem to originate in Jamaica. In fact, coincidental with the Senate hearing, a documentary hosted by celebrated American broadcast journalist Dan Rather was aired on US television.
The US government is concerned that Jamaica, until now, has not done enough to tackle the problem, placing at risk cooperation arrangements between the two countries. Further, the schemes are a major deterrent to new business-outsourcing projects in Jamaica. Who wants to invest where client information is unsecured and may be stolen for use in fraud?
In Jamaica, it is notoriously the case that most, if not all, of the identity information used by the con artists is stolen from call centres and other outsourced business operations. These perpetrators of fraud live lavish lifestyles. But their enterprises also fuel violent crime as competitors fight over territory. Scores of murders have been linked to the lottery scam.
Last week's legislation, with the added urgency from events in America, creates a class of crimes relevant to the new technological age and provides a net to help catch those who engage in them.
Quite correctly, the Government has promised to bring these offences under the umbrella of the Proceeds of Crime Act, which allows for the civil recovery of property from persons who are deemed to be engaged in a criminal lifestyle, from which they accumulated the contested property. We, however, suggest a broader amendment to this act to make it easier, along the lines of Section 14 of the lottery scam legislation, for authorities to go after criminal proceeds.
We are aware, though, that legislation, by itself, is not enough. It is now for law enforcement to aggressively go after the scoundrels.
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