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Police seize Benz, set eyes on drug kingpin's other assets

Published: Saturday | December 21, 2013 Comments 0
This Mercedes-Benz motor car was seized by the police at the Central Sorting Office in Kingston yesterday. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
This Mercedes-Benz motor car was seized by the police at the Central Sorting Office in Kingston yesterday. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

As the half-billion-dollar empire of convicted Jamaican drug kingpin Andrew Hamilton continues to crumble, the Financial Investigations Division (FID) yesterday revealed that it had identified several properties it will seek to have forfeited to the State.

Head of the FID, Justin Felice, told The Gleaner that the properties - both residential units and open lots - are valued at "large amounts".

Yesterday, detectives from the FID swooped down on the Central Sorting Office on South Camp Road in Kingston and seized a late-model Mercedes-Benz motor car believed to be among Hamilton's assets.

Felice explained that the car was among 19 assets restrained by the court but said the FID was having difficulties locating it.

"We have been looking for that car for some time," he told The Gleaner.

COURT APPEARANCES

The disclosure by Felice came hours after Kingston-based attorney Dawn Satterswaite and two other accused linked to Hamilton appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on money-laundering charges.

The other accused are 53-year-old insurance contractor Paulette Higgins, of Norman Gardens, Kingston, and 50-year-old postal employee Janet Ramsay, of Portmore, St Catherine.

A fourth accused in the case, Ann Marie Cleary, did not appear in court because she had been admitted to a Manchester hospital.

During the brief hearing, prosecutors charged that between 1998 and 2009, Hamilton, who has pleaded guilty to drugs, money laundering, and firearm-related charges in the United States, managed to acquire 30 properties valued at $500 million.

As a result of his conviction, prosecutors say the United States Drug Enforcement Agency requested a civil investigation into his assets in Jamaica.

This triggered a massive money-laundering investigation, which, according to prosecutors, began in December 2012 and resulted in a Supreme Court judge issuing an order in September this year barring Hamilton's relatives and friends from disposing of assets investigators believe they registered for him.

Before the restraint order was issued, prosecutors say 11 properties linked to the man they refer to as a drug kingpin, valued at $324 million, were transferred.

Further, prosecutors allege that Satterswaite was the person responsible for maintaining the properties and collecting rent.

'SERIOUS' ALLEGATIONS

In granting bail, Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey called the allegations "very serious."

"It's not a simple issue. The allegations speak about large sums of money," the magistrate underscored.

However, attorney-at-law Ian Wilkinson, who represents Satterswaite, cautioned that "these are just figures being bandied about".

"These people are innocent until proven guilty," he emphasised.

Satterswaite, Higgins, and Ramsay were each granted bail in the sum of $10 million and have been ordered to surrender their travel documents and report to the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force's head office every Monday. A stop order has been placed on them at the ports.

They are scheduled to return to court on February 18 next year.

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