Insurance companies and police agree on plan to clamp down on illegal taxis
Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
The Government could soon be going after robot taxi operators who are pulling in thousands of dollars each week without paying any taxes.
Head of the police traffic division Senior Superintendent Radcliff Lewis says he is going to present Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) with a list of the worst offenders.
"We will be giving the TAJ the list so they can go after them because they should pay their taxes," Lewis told The Sunday Gleaner.
"If is a first-time offender we will not be putting him on the list but since January 2012 we have seized more than 2,300 robot taxis and many of them are repeat offenders," added Lewis.
He says this will be one more weapon in the arsenal of the police as they seek to clear the roads of these illegal operators.
"I am getting the full cooperation of the insurance companies and once they don't insure these vehicles and we find them on the road we are going to seize them and they are going to become furniture."
Lewis was speaking to The Sunday Gleaner hours after meeting with representatives of the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ) to clarify reports that its members were continuing to insure vehicles which the cops had pointed out were working as robot taxis.
The outspoken veteran police officer had encouraged persons injured while travelling in these robot taxis to sue the insurance companies.
But following the meeting, Lewis and vice-president elect of the IAJ, Peter Levy, said it was all a misunderstanding.
Levy declared that the police and the insurance companies have always had a similar objective and Lewis agreed.
According to Levy, the insurance companies have nothing to gain by insuring a car for private use while it is operating as a public-passenger vehicle.
"We actively try to prevent this practice to the point where we employ mechanisms to try and identify the misuse of private vehicles as taxis so that we can exclude them from having private insurance," Levy told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We have the same goal as the police which is to try to reduce the practice," added Levy.
He said the industry has found no record of the list of vehicles being operated as robot taxis which Lewis had indicated that the traffic police has provided to insurance companies.
"We are very interested in that list - and if we have that information we will ensure that we are not giving these people private insurance," said Levy.
The police and the insurance companies are also working on a protocol to update that list on a regular basis.
The agreement involving the traffic cops and the insurance company came days before Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies announced a three-month amnesty for persons operating public-passenger vehicles without the requisite licences.
The amnesty begins on April 1 and will give robot taxi operators across the island a chance to become regularised.