Adrian Frater, News Editor
With very few convictions arising from its numerous raids in St James, the Superintendent of Police Leon Clunie-led Anti-Lottery Scam Task Force is being accused of failing to do proper investigations before performing arrests, resulting in undue embarrassment to many innocent persons.
Within recent times, many of the persons, who were arrested in 'lotto scam raids' and had assets including vehicles seized, have had the cases against them dismissed in court because of insufficient evidence to support the charges against them.
"I believe the police should investigate properly first and only proceed to an arrest when they are satisfied that they have a good case," said attorney-at-law Martyn Thomas.
With regard to the popular claim that the task force is on a wild-goose chase, arresting persons and then investigating the claims against them afterwards, Thomas said any such behaviour would be inappropriate.
"In my view, arresting a person and then investigating after cannot be the right approach," said Thomas. "Such a practice could lead to unnecessary embarrassment for persons who are guilty of nothing."
Councillor Sylvan Reid, of the Salt Spring division in the St James Parish Council, who along with Montego Bay Deputy Mayor Michael Troupe, was arrested in a much-publicised task force raid, was surprisingly charged for unlawful possession of a television after he was initially labelled a major player in the infamous scam.
In court, Resident Magistrate Sandria Wong-Small ruled that there was no merit in the charge against Reid and, in dismissing the case, ordered the return of his television set, which was seized during the raid.
While he is prepared to support the efforts of the task force in its bid to break the back of the illicit scam, which has fleeced unsuspecting United States citizens of millions of dollars, businessman Davon Crump, the president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, wants to see the police exercise due care in making arrests.
"While I must commend the constabulary for their assertive approach in confronting this monster (the lottery scam), greater care must be taken with how information at their disposal is treated," said Crump.
However, in urging caution, Crump said: "The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce supports the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) and MOCA (the Major Organised Crime Anti-Corruption Task Force) in their efforts to eradicate this scourge in our society, as those involved in these activities must never be allowed to be comfortable with their ill-gotten gains."
However, several persons, including Troupe who spent more than a week in jail, are seeking redress through the courts.
Efforts to get a comment from Clunie on the concerns raised about the task force proved unsuccessful as he was said to be unavailable for comment.