Scamming the aged out of their financial resources is a sinister and reprehensible act and those – including Jamaican musical artists – promoting the illegal activity as a form of reparation in their songs will not be tolerated, says Jamaica’s Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting.
Thousands of elderly citizens in North America – primarily the United States – have been bilked out of millions of dollars in an illegal lottery scam centred around Montego Bay.
At a forum in Toronto, Bunting played a clip of Vybz Kartel and Gaza Slim’s single, ‘Reparation’, which is banned from Jamaica’s airwaves.
“I have nothing against Jamaican popular music,” said Bunting. “I think it’s a positive and profound part of our culture. I do have a problem though when it’s used to promote criminality.”
Bunting pointed out the scammers are preying on society’s most vulnerable, destroying their lives in the process.
“The scammers are very sophisticated,” said Bunting, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1983 from McGill University. “They target persons older than 75. As you get older, you get more trusting and often times early dementia is first manifested in mismanagement of your financial affairs. So we should not have any sympathy for the scammers.”
To combat serious transnational organized crime, the Major Organized Crime & Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA) was established last September.
“This is a fully vetted and sensitive investigative multi-task force agency comprising lawyers, forensic auditors, tax administrators and law enforcement agents,” said Bunting. “We are going after the money this time. Organized criminals operate for profit. They are not even scared of having to do five or seven years in jail. What matters is when they come out, their millions are there waiting for them. My job is to ensure that when they come out, they are broke.”
Bunting said the government has initiated social intervention initiatives to steer young people away from scammers and gangs. These include scholarships for youths in 50 of the most volatile inner city communities and the implementation of a one-year internship pilot project in which the Jamaica Defence Force engineering regiment are teaching 500 youths construction skills.
“That will get them certified and they are being re-socialized in the process,” said Bunting. “We see this as a diversion program for them.”