Local anti-laundering unit remains invisible

-even as assets of suspicious figures being disposed of

Amid the continuing success by anti-money laundering agencies in Jamaica and Trinidad, questions persist about what the local agency is doing in the face of the disposing of assets of persons who have long been on the radar of law enforcement authorities for suspicious behaviour.

Several weeks ago, the transfer of a major city property in the name of the now dead Ricardo Rodrigues was advertised in the Official Gazette. Before he was gunned down at the GMRSC facility at Thomas Lands and Albert Street in October 2012, Rodrigues had been sought by police in connection with a string of suspect activities and he had been known to have had a long association with imprisoned drug lord Roger Khan. Just days before he was gunned down, Rodrigues had been sought by police in connection with the discovery of an arms cache in Lethem. It is believed his subsequent execution-style killing was somehow connected to this case.

The local Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has never showed any sign of pursuing investigations into the origins of the assets of a large number of people who have been seen to be connected to the drug world and other organized crime activities.

The prime example of this would have been the assets and estate of Khan, who is now serving a 15-year jail term in the US for drug trafficking. At the time that he was held in Suriname in 2006, Khan was known to have had extensive assets here including an island in the Essequibo River and real estate.

The FIU made no known move to pursue a case here against him even after local laws were bolstered to permit asset forfeiture.

One of the opposition concerns over the stalled Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism bill was that there was no guarantee that the FIU, which had been severely understaffed for a long time and had not been submitting regular reports to Parliament, would intensify its activities to interdict the financial operations of known organized crime figures.

The opposition had argued that passing enhanced legislation would have no impact unless there were determined steps and assurances that the FIU would be able to do the job.

Rodrigues’ property in an upmarket part of Georgetown is being transferred to a city businessman.

Friday’s edition of Stabroek News carried a Jamaica Gleaner report which stated that after mounting a legal fight to keep what Jamaican investigators claim are millions of dollars worth of ill-gotten assets, the family and friends of a suspected drug dealer had agreed to turn them over to the State.

In a negotiated agreement formalised in the Supreme Court last week, the former girlfriend, father, and a female friend of Gauntlett Gallimore agreed to forfeit a J$20-million house in St Ann and two BMW motor cars.

The Gleaner report said that the case marks the latest victory for the Financial Investigations Division (FID) in its drive to go after assets believed to be derived from criminal activities.

“This recovery order is the manifestation of the division’s strategy to fully utilise the criminal, civil, or administrative powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to combat money laundering and forfeiting the benefits individuals obtained from crime – directly or indirectly,” FID boss Justin Felice said.

Although he was never convicted for any drug-related offence, Jamaican investigators say Gallimore was involved in the illegal drug trade in the United Kingdom before he was deported in March 2008.

He was shot and killed by unknown assailants five months later at his St Ann home.

The legal battle began in 2012 when the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) went to court and got separate restraining orders for the house and motor vehicles, the report said.

To support the application, court documents show that Gallimore’s girlfriend gave a statement to an FID investigator, admitting that the house had been purchased with money she obtained from him over several months.

The investigator also suggested, in court documents, that she had no source of “legitimate or illegitimate income to explain her ability to purchase the house”.

Court papers show that Gallimore’s last known employment in Jamaica was as a cook in Brown’s Town, St Ann.

 

 

 

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