Thu | Nov 30, 2023

‘Not going that route’

Chang says Government has no intention of using wiretaps to entrap criminals

Published:Thursday | April 28, 2022 | 12:05 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


THE GOVERNMENT has indicated that it will not be eavesdropping on telephone calls of Jamaicans as part of its crime-fighting measures towards weeding out criminal gangsters, even as the fight to eradicate the deadly lotto scamming activities is overbearing.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang, who is also minister of national security, said the Government will use all the tools available, once they are lawful and are embedded in the Constitution, but the use of wiretapping will not be used at this time.

“We are not going to go that route,” Chang declared while responding to a question from The Gleaner on whether there are any laws on the books that the Government can use in partnership with the telecommunication companies to listen in on conversations by scammers, in order to bring them to justice and end the illegal activity.

He said while the security forces’ operational strategies are being challenged, steps are being taken to provide additional human resources and technical support to effectively monitor the migration of players in the lotto scamming activity to the rural areas of the country.

“The security forces have their techniques. What we have to do is to strengthen them, expand and improve them. I won’t go into the details, but they are working on it,” the national security minister informed.

“They (lotto scammers) are scattered and they are in deep rural areas, it’s not exactly easy to find them either. And when the persons are new in those areas, tracking telecommunication is not the easiest thing to do, and you have to do it within the law,” said Chang.

The now-expired 2004 electronic surveillance Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Jamaica and the United States, and the United Kingdom, allowed security forces to eavesdrop on telephone calls to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal operations.

However, in a 2018 Gleaner story, Chang revealed to the House of Representatives that the Supreme Court found that the MOUs were unconstitutional after the matter was treated as an in-camera case, given the gravity of the matter and sensitivity of the country’s national security.

However, Chang, who was first handed the national security portfolio in April 2018, entered into a new agreement with the United States on October 23, 2019, which he hoped at the time would satisfy the legal requirements of the Jamaican Constitution.

Earlier this month, Dominick Riley, the United States Postal Inspection Service Attaché at the US Embassy in Kingston, revealed that a significant number of extradition warrants will be issued for alleged Jamaican lottery scammers to face justice in the US.

While he did not indicate how many extradition warrants would be issued, Riley declared that US authorities will not lose the war against lottery scamming.

“Scammers can stay ahead and make an advance some of the times, so we have not lost this war, but we are definitely in for a fight. Extraditions will pick up and we shall see a lot more extraditions coming in the future, this month, as there are several in the pipeline,” Riley told patrons at a security summit hosted recently by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.