The Financial Investigations Division (FID) was successful in securing a significant ruling by the St. Elizabeth Parish Court, on January 25, 2024.
Cash in the sum of J$2,065,000 was ordered forfeited to the Crown under Section 79 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) by Parish Judge Mrs. D. Lawrence-Pivotte.
This marked the culmination of proceedings which began with the seizure of the cash on March 1, 2022 from the defendant, Mr. Burges Clarke, a farmer a Broadleaf District address in St. Elizabeth.
Clarke was the subject of a law enforcement operation led by officers attached to the Black River Police Station and the New Market Police Station. During the operation conducted at Clarke’s residence the cash was discovered along with an illegal firearm.
Clarke was taken into custody and charged with breaches of the Firearms Act and the cash seized as per the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). Despite his claim that the funds were proceeds from the sale of agricultural products, including pineapples, pumpkins, and marijuana, Clarke failed to substantiate his statement with evidence or provide any names of buyers.
Representatives from the Cannabis Licensing Authority confirmed that Mr. Clarke had not been issued a license or any authorisation for the cultivation or sale of marijuana.
Following these events, a forfeiture application was filed in the St. Elizabeth Parish Court on June 1, 2022. Subsequent court hearings led to the forfeiture order after neither Mr. Clarke nor his legal representation attended the mandated court sessions.
In commenting on the case, Director of the FID’s Legal Services Branch Courtney Smith noted, “The FID presented compelling evidence through three witnesses, resulting in the default ruling by the court. This forfeiture is a testament to the diligent efforts of the Jamaican law enforcement and judicial system in combatting illegal activities and upholding the rule of law.
There is an upward trend in the number of cases being investigated and brought before the Courts for breaches of POCA. Jamaica’s law enforcement capacity and dedication to detect, investigate and, prosecute POCA-related breaches are constantly being improved.”
Smith added, “Jamaicans are therefore being encouraged to channel their energy and creativity into productive, legitimate business ventures.”