Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
American journalist and former CBS '60 Minutes' anchor, Dan Rather was in Montego Bay, St James, this week to film a documentary on the infamous lottery scam.
The programme is slated to be aired on US cable channel AXS TV in March.
Rather, who is now managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine, 'Dan Rather Reports', arrived in the island on Monday.
He was scheduled to depart yesterday afternoon, leaving his camera crew behind to complete filming.
On his website, Rather announced he was filming in Jamaica: "I'm in Jamaica on a reporting trip. I've been here several times before, but it's the first time in a while. Makes me think back to a report I did a while ago on "Rastafarians" for 60 Minutes. That old story somehow has become fairly popular on the Internet I'm told."
The National Security Minister Peter Bunting says the reason for Rather's visit this time is cause for concern.
"He and his 16-member camera crew did not come here and ask to see some of the nice resort areas, such as Doctor's Cave Beach, etcetera, they wanted to see some of the areas where the scamming goes on, and the truth is, we can't stop them from coming," Bunting told members of the St James Police Civic Committee during a meeting at the Wexford Hotel in Montego Bay Thursday evening.
In fact, the US crew is being escorted by Senior Superintendent of Police Andrew Lewis, and has visited residential areas such as Ironshore, Rhyne Park, Granville, Rose Heights and Coral Gardens, where scammers are believed to own a number of homes.
"They were also shown the number of vehicles that have been seized by us," SSP Lewis confirmed.
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Not totally disheartened by the effects the documentary could have on the country, Bunting said during his interview with Rather, he tried to present a balance that not all Jamaicans are con artists.
"The police and the Government are not equivocating about this issue, but we are doing everything possible to eliminate the scourge," Bunting said he told Rather.
He said he and his team were able to demonstrate what has been done operationally.
"We have put the task of dealing with the lotto scam with our most elite police investigative unit, the Major Organised Crime and Anti Corruption Taskforce," Bunting said.
This taskforce, he reiterated was a well-resourced unit led by one of the country's most experienced senior officers.
"The second thing we are able to demonstrate is that we were active legislatively. We passed the Evidence Measures Act in December 2012, which will hopefully encourage victims to come forward to be witnesses to these crimes and they don't have to worry about travelling all the way to Jamaica because, under this Evidence Measures Act, they will be able to give evidence in court using an audio/video link - a live feed which they will do remotely.
He explained that the difficulty in the past was to get an elderly victim to travel great distances to come and give evidence at a court in Montego Bay.
He also said during the interview, he was able to demonstrate that Jamaica has a new piece of legislation, specifically to deal with advance fee fraud and lottery scam related issues.
"This will allow the police much greater latitude," Bunting asserted.
The new legislation dictates that where the police find someone in possession of lead list with hundreds or thousands of names of potential victims fitting a certain profile; and are in possession of a magic jack on a computer, or loads of cash that they can't explain, the court will be able to draw an inference that these things were being used in furtherance of scamming or such activities.
According to Bunting, estimates from the police revealed that in 2012, between 40 and 50 per cent of violent crimes in St James were connected in one way or another to lottery scamming.
"We have to rubbish this idea that this is a victimless crime," Bunting said. "It is one of the most cruel crimes you can commit because the victim is from the most vulnerable group."
The target age group for the scammers is between 75 and 94, said the national security minister.
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