Gov't eyes money mules
Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
A VENEZUELAN man who stunned local investigators when he passed out 80 small packages with cash totalling US$103,500 or approximately $11.6 million, after a routine stop at the Sangster International Airport, has forced Jamaican authorities to increase their vigilance at the nation's ports.
Chief Technical Director at the Financial Investigations Division (FID), Justin Felice, revealed yesterday that measures have since been put in place to profile incoming and outgoing passengers now engaging in what he described as a "new method of bulk cash smuggling.
"We have to be on guard at the ports of entry and exit, looking at suspicious passengers who may be attempting to smuggle cash," the FID boss told The Gleaner.
"This is the first instance that we have found cash being smuggled from Jamaica in such a fashion. It is indicative of how far persons will go in an effort to evade detection by law enforcement tasked with combating money laundering," he added.
The Venezuelan national, 40-year-old Eddy Alberio Mancipe Ortega, has been convicted on four counts of breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and was yesterday sentenced in the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate's Court to three months in prison. The court also ordered that the money be forfeited to the state.
It brings to $88.3 million the total amount of cash that has gone into government coffers since the start of the current financial year in April.
However, the FID says this figure does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate and other properties that have been restrained by the courts pending further investigations.
Ortega, who has been in custody since he was arrested in January, was ordered deported immediately, but Felice said that would not stop local authorities from probing his actions.
"We want to know where that money was coming from, where it was going and whether it came from narcotics, the sale of firearms or lottery scamming," the FID head said.
Investigators revealed that on January 20 this year, Ortega was stopped by members of the Transnational Crime and Narcotics Division as he attempted to board a Caribbean Airlines flight from Sangster airport to Trinidad and Tobago.