Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
The Jamaican Government has secured a major legal victory in its bid to go after multimillion-dollar assets believed to be owned by a Jamaican who has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering and gunrunning charges in the United States.
This comes after Supreme Court Judge Bryan Sykes dismissed an application filed on behalf of confessed drug dealer Andrew Hamilton and eight other respondents, including his 83-year-old mother and children, that sought to remove the restraint placed on several multimillion-dollar assets he is alleged to have purchased with the proceeds from his criminal undertakings.
Attorneys acting on behalf of Hamilton, his relatives, and two companies he incorporated locally were seeking to have the restraint - the second filed by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) since August 2012 - lifted on the grounds that it was an abuse of the court process.
"It is vital that bad money - or money derived from unlawful activity - be kept out of the financial system because of the severe distorting effects it can have on both the macro and micro economy," Sykes declared in dismissing Hamilton's application.
Head of the Financial Investigations Division, Justin Felice, told The Gleaner last night that Hamilton is to be sentenced in a California federal court next February.
The chain of events was set in motion in August 2012, when the ARA, believing that Hamilton's assets were derived from his criminal activities, applied to the court to place a hold on several parcels of real estate and motor vehicles, as well as to freeze a number of accounts that were being held at various financial institutions.
The ARA informed the court then that it was conducting an investigation into the source of Hamilton's assets, with a view to have them forfeited to the State.
This application and a second one filed in June this year were supported by two affidavits from Ronald Rose, an investigator for the ARA.
In his affidavit to support the first application, Rose noted that between 2002 and 2009, Hamilton, a former postal employee and a former member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, was able to acquire property amounting to a cumulative value of $429.5 million.
According to Rose, the convicted drug dealer was also a director and shareholder in Andrew Hamilton Construction Limited (AHCL) and Andrehan Seafoods Company Limited (ASCL).
"Despite the lack of evidence of any lawful economic activity, AHCL was able to import equipment, vehicles and parts valued at J$42,445,385 within the period April to September 2008," the ARA investigator noted.
"ASCL, without any known lawful economic activity, was able to import a fishing vessel that cost J$19,000,000," he continued.
He said both companies listed the address of their registered offices as 33 Moreton Park Road in St Andrew, which investigators found was locked up and unoccupied when they visited.
According to Rose's affidavit, Hamilton's five children - all born between 1994 and 2006 - were listed as the owners of 10 parcels of real estate, three of which have already been sold.
"The most likely source of income to purchase these properties would be Mr Andrew Hamilton, who is now a confessed drug trafficker," Rose said.
Sykes, in delivering his ruling, noted that the respondents have failed to comply with an August 2012 order from another High Court judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, to disclose the full particulars and location of all assets owned by them or on their behalf.
"This does not necessarily mean that the respondents are engaged in money laundering or the holding of property derived from criminal activity. The order [by Campbell] is designed to assist the investigative process," Sykes underscored.