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Banking on the Chinese - Criminals target cash-rich Asian business operators

Published:Sunday | February 15, 2015 | 2:00 AM

A long-time member of the Chinese-Jamaican community is blasting his colleagues for setting themselves up to be victims of crimes.

According to the Chinese businessman who has lived in Jamaica for years, and who asked that his name be withheld, his colleagues are making themselves targets by travelling with large wads of cash either because they do not want to follow sound security advice or they do not want to enter the formal system.

"We have been talking to these people all the time, but they don't listen to you or me. Why? They are not stupid. It's because they think the chance of being attacked and lose their money is less than if income tax [authorities] find out how much they make and tax them," said the businessman.

"The thieves attack anybody - Chinese, Jamaican - anybody who carries large amount of cash. You carry the cash and you attract them because they know by looking and observing you in certain shops that you are the owner of the shop. They also know that you have been spotted carrying the money to the bank all the time," he said.

The businessman was reacting to the latest attack on a Chinese business operator in downtown Kingston.

In an early-morning heist, two gunmen attacked the businessman as he made his way to a bank on Duke Street.

Instead of heeding the bandits' demand for cash, the police said the businessman fought his attackers and darted into the bank for safety as gunshots rang out behind him.

Unconfirmed reports say the attackers escaped with one of two bags of cash the businessman was carrying.

The attacks on Chinese businessmen came into sharp focus last year, prompting the appointment of a security liaison officer to meet regularly with the victims' representatives to discuss and coordinate police support on security matters.

Earlier this year, Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams also travelled to downtown Kingston to assure the Chinese business operators that measures are in place to protect them.

SOME STILL REFUSE ASSISTANCE

Assistant Commissioner Devon Watkis, who was appointed to liaise with the Chinese community, last week pointed out that several attempts have been made to persuade Chinese business owners to employ safer means to transport large sums of cash.

"During our discussions, we have always emphasised the importance of taking care of how you manage the taking around of large sums of money, and we have recommended all the banking access and the means of getting there," Watkis told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We want to reiterate the importance of when you are moving large amounts of cash, whether you are Jamaican, Indian or [any other] Asian. It is important that you use one of the safe methods, including asking your local police for assistance or calling 119 and ask for assistance."

Some of the Chinese business persons have embraced the police's advice, but others have not relented in their unsafe practices, Watkis added.

The Chinese business operator who spoke with our news team agreed with Watkis, as he pointed to possible reasons why his countrymen have shied away from safer practices.

"Why do the Chinese persons have so much cash in their pockets? Because they do not deal with cheques, they only want cash in their business. Why do they only want cash in their businesses and no cheques? It is because they don't want the income tax people to know how much they make. I am not saying only the Chinese people do that; other businessmen also do it."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com