FID seizes over $2 billion worth of real estate — Chang Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The Financial Investigations Division (FID) is in possession of “well over” $2 billion worth of real estate it believes was derived from illicit activities.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang made the disclosure on Tuesday during a Jamaica House press briefing that was called to announce the declaration of states of emergency (SOEs) across several parishes and police divisions. He was responding to questions posed by a reporter.

His disclosure comes nine months after he told the Parliament that the FID, which is located in the Ministry of Finance, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, and the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime and Investigation Branch were tasked with probing whether dirty money, including from the lottery scam, was being used to fund construction projects across the country.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang addressing a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston on November 15. (Photo: JIS)

On Tuesday, he pointed to “two significant cases” reported in the media recently, which he said reflected the work of the security forces in going after the perpetrators.

One of the cases referenced by the minister involves former policeman-turned-drug boss Andrew Hamilton, who had over $500 million in assets deemed to be illegally obtained, forfeited by the State.

The Court of Appeal last Friday refused an application by Hamilton’s attorneys to challenge a forfeiture order made by the Supreme Court on July 8 that handed possession of his assets to the Government.

Based on the order, Hamilton, his family members, including his elderly mother, and his associates were stripped of 14 multimillion-dollar homes, four motor vehicles, four bulldozers; a $19-million fishing vessel and a bank account containing $19 million.

Chang noted that such cases, by their very nature, take time to prosecute and asked for understanding from the public.

“Bear in mind you’re hitting criminals with significant resources, they hire the best King’s Counsel to defend them and to challenge the legislation and law.

“So what is happening now is not only execution of the implementation of the legislation but also setting the kind of precedence that our courts demand and, therefore, they go through significant, lengthy trials,” said Chang.

“(Things) are progressing, we have a significant amount of property,” the minister added.

He said the cash that has been seized is also significant.

Chang, who is also the deputy prime minister, said that in the medium term, the aim was “the disruption, apprehension and removal from society of the criminal organisers (as) they are the ones who cause damage more than the young men who they hire to pull the trigger”.

The security minister said that while the police will bring the triggermen to book, “we have to find the resources and time to remove from society, the organisers — the ones who sell the drugs, buy the guns and distribute them.”

“The work continues and will intensify as we go along,” said Chang.

In February, Chang cited that some of the “the multi-storey apartments” and other developments in Kingston had raised a lot of questions. He pointed out that the construction sector was booming despite the downturn in economic activity triggered by the pandemic.

“You travel to some sections of Jamaica, and the level of construction even at this time, in fact certainly during the year when we had economic decline, construction went up significantly,” Chang noted.

He also cited that the sale of cement was up 20 per cent during that time.