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United States pleased with decision to merge MOCA

Published:Thursday | August 7, 2014 | 8:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The United States Government has expressed satisfaction with the decision of its Jamaican counterpart to merge the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force and the Anti-Corruption Branch, the embassy in Kingston says, but insists that it is not interfering in local affairs.

The embassy has down-played the significance of its presence at Monday's press conference, where National Security Minister Peter Bunting announced the merger.

However, the Public Affairs section of the US Embassy said it hoped that the new entity would yield the desired results, nabbing hoodlums in high places.

The US Embassy was asked by The Gleaner whether it was now satisfied with how things were progressing as it related to law enforcement and crime fighting in Jamaica.

"As observers, we are pleased that the Government of Jamaica has taken positive steps to coordinate its law enforcement agencies, investigators, and the judicial system in an effort to build strong criminal cases that we hope will lead to successful prosecutions and a reduction in the crime rate," the embassy stated in an emailed response to Gleaner queries.

Last month, Christopher Degnan, the public affairs officer at the US Embassy in Kingston, told The Gleaner that "the US assistance in support of the JCF is under review because of allegations of JCF involvement in extrajudicial killings".

INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS

Degan "encouraged" the Government of Jamaica to investigate the allegations and to ensure that any and all perpetrators of alleged gross violations of human rights are brought to justice.

Members of the diplomatic community in Jamaica, particularly representatives of the United States Embassy, were noticeably present at Monday's press conference, where National Security Minister Peter Bunting said the amalgamation is now called the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency.

But on Tuesday, US authorities said its presence at the press conference was not unusual, but, rather, a reflection of its interest in the efforts by the Government of Jamaica to arrest and prosecute major criminals engaged in corruption and transnational and organised crime.

The US Embassy has indicated that the US Government places great importance on its relationship with the Jamaican Government and civil society as it enjoys close bilateral cooperation on a broad range of social, economic, and security issues.

The embassy, however, stressed last month that the US Government remained concerned about allegations of extrajudicial killings by elements of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. "While investigations into these allegations continue, the United States is managing assistance in accordance with our laws and policies governing US foreign assistance," it stated.

The new unit, which is considered to be an elite agency, is expected to focus on tackling corruption in the public sector and bringing high-value criminal targets to justice.

Structured around a joint-staff concept working with international partners, Bunting said it was aimed at bringing to bear the country's best intelligence assets, investigators, and prosecutors.