WATCH: IC chief investigator says illicit enrichment probes ‘complex’ Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

A chief investigator employed to the Integrity Commission (IC) has assured that the commission will soon release reports to Parliament detailing the complexity of its investigations into various corruption matters, including those related to purported acts of illicit enrichment.

The IC’s 2022-2023 annual report stated that six parliamentarians (Members of Parliament or senators) and 28 other public officials were under probe for suspected illicit enrichment, sparking widespread interest and speculation.

As the one-year anniversary approaches, the commission is under pressure to release reports on those investigations, and Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has been leading the call for the reports, or at least an update, to be provided to Parliament.

The term ‘illicit six’ has even featured on the public campaign, and Chuck has expressed frustration in the past that persons have been asking him if he was one of the “six”, referring to the unidentified parliamentarians who are believed to be the subjects of such investigations.

During a meeting with the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee of Parliament on Wednesday, the IC’s Director of Investigations, Kevon Stephenson, hinted that the corruption reports to come will provide insight into the complex nature of such probes.

But he did not specifically mention the investigations into the six parliamentarians.

Stephenson was responding to a query from Chuck, a member of the committee, on whether he was investigating several matters for which he (Stephenson) will write reports on in due course.

“Absolutely, member Chuck,” Stephenson responded.

Continuing, he said: “There are a number of investigations ongoing.

“Certainly, the statutory declaration-related matters, and when I speak about statutory declaration-related matters, I mean the failure to file, failure to provide information, and false statements,” Stephenson indicated.

He said those matters are usually easier to investigate because they are usually paper-based.

But in terms of offences such as illicit enrichment, and other acts of corruption, Stephenson said “these will take a longer time by virtue of the complexity of these matters”.

He added that, “I am sure that very soon, the Parliament and the country will understand the nature of some of these investigations just by virtue of reports that are produced by the work of the commission.”

Despite the explanation, Chuck went on to query what would cause the IC to begin a probe to determine if a public official was indeed engaged in illicit enrichment, and whether the statutory declaration would play a role.

“These are matters being investigated and it’s over a year now,” Chuck insisted, this after the IC’s Director of Information and Complaints, Craig Beresford, declined to answer the question completely.

Beresford would only say that the definition of illicit enrichment is usually a mismatch between asset and income, and anyone being probed for such an offence is given an opportunity to explain how they came to acquire such assets.

Stephenson intervene and said the statutory declaration would be one of the tools the IC uses to be able to have an indication as “to whether there is illicit enrichment”.

He elaborated that the examination of the statutory declarations may give an indication that something is “not right”, which then leads to an investigation.

Additionally, Stephenson said investigating another matter of corruption could open a probe into suspected acts of illicit enrichment, which is when an individual owns assets that are disproportionate to one’s lawful earnings.

Section 14 (5) (a) of the Corruption Prevention Act states that failure to provide a satisfactory explanation for such assets can lead to prosecution.