Jamaica News: National Security Minister, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, says the Government is committed to ensuring that its capability to protect the country’s borders is significantly improved.
It is for that reason, the Minister noted, that two marine patrol boats were purchased for the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) sometime ago for offshore pursuits, and that a partnership was formed between the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) and the Finance and the Public Service Ministry to train JCA staff.
Dr. Chang was addressing the opening of a one-day Anti-illicit Trade Conference, hosted by Carreras Limited at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on July 23.
“We have to intercept the threats. We’ll be working with Customs to ensure that staff members are not only trained and prepared but have the required technology to assist in ensuring that we can maintain the legal entry points,” the Minister said.
He further said that illicit trade, which includes lottery scamming, illegal cigarettes, guns and other nefarious activities, fund organised criminal networks in Jamaica.
Dr. Chang argued that it is necessary to put an end to such activities if we are to “achieve the level of growth in the economy that is required”.
Meanwhile, Carreras Limited Managing Director, Marcus Steele, said the conference is timely, “because there is no doubt that urgent action is required”.
“The illicit trade is getting bigger… and more challenging, in line with crime in Jamaica. The flow of illicit cigarettes is mind-boggling,” he said, pointing to the recent seizure of over $500 million worth of illegal cigarettes.
Mr. Steele emphasised that strong domestic action against illicit trade is needed and that “each country must develop a regulatory regime that controls tobacco trade at and within its borders”.
“The practice to combat the illicit tobacco trade must reflect the unique circumstances of each country. We know that the socio-economic factors here in Jamaica have a major role in the trade,” he noted.
The Managing Director emphasised that greater communication is needed between the various arms of government that are essential to enhancing the effectiveness of tobacco control measures.
They include law enforcement, taxation and revenue protection, customs services, the Health Ministry as well as the appropriate regional and intergovernmental organisations.
For his part, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Fitz Bailey, said the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is committed to disbanding all forms of illicit trade, especially counterfeit products.
Mr. Bailey, who is in charge of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC), said the process will require partnerships from all other law-enforcement agencies, the JCA, Financial Investigations Division (FID) and Tax Administration Jamaica, to take the profit out of crime.
The conference aimed to explore solutions to the problem of illicit trade, especially of counterfeit cigarettes, which results in an estimated loss of $5 billion in revenue to the Government annually.
Source: JIS News