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Nowhere to hide - IRS official warns that ill-gotten wealth will be seized from anywhere in world

Published:Tuesday | April 19, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

A top American Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official has issued a stern warning to criminals and criminal organisations that are seeking to move their ill-gotten wealth from the United States (US) to Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean.

"Just because they send it outside the country doesn't mean that it's safe, doesn't mean that it can't be found and it can't be taken," said Adam Jobes, deputy attachÈ, IRS Caribbean Regional Office based in Barbados.

The warning came yesterday, days after Jobes arrived in the island to collect a cheque for US$140,000, or nearly J$16.8 million, from the liquidation of assets linked to imprisoned Jamaican accountant Pamela Watson.

The cheque was collected from a local financial institution and represents the last of three cheques handed over to the IRS for a total of US$890,000, or approximately J$106.8 million.

Jobes, who was speaking during an exclusive interview with The Gleaner, said taking possession of Watson's assets in Jamaica should serve as a "very important deterrence factor".

"It shows that the IRS criminal investigations office has relationships with foreign counterparts, in this case the FID (Financial Investigations Division), and that we have the ability to be able to reclaim and repatriate this type of money," he explained.

"This is money that was basically stolen from the US Treasury through the filing of false tax returns. Just because they send it somewhere else doesn't mean we don't have the ability to go and get it," he underscored.

Watson, who is well-known in the Jamaican community in South Florida, pleaded guilty last October to running a tax-refund scheme that defrauded clients - mainly Jamaicans she claimed she was helping - and the US government of US$3.6 million.

She admitted in court that she falsified hundreds of tax returns and refund amounts on IRS forms without her clients' knowledge and diverted the monies to her own accounts and accounts belonging to her spouse.

Last December, she was sentenced to 78 months in prison and ordered by US District Judge James Cohn to pay restitution in the same amount.

The FID, which tracked the imprisoned accountant's assets in Jamaica, had begun forfeiture proceedings against her, but later deferred to their US counterparts.

Jobes defended that decision, explaining that the "victim" of her crime was the US Treasury.

"There was money taken from the US Treasury. They are the victim and, typically, in cases where there is a victim, that victim is made whole," he explained.