US Am­bas­sador links lotto scams to de-risk­ing

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - Neville Gra­ham Busi­ness Re­porter neville.gra­ham@glean­erjm.com

US AM­BAS­SADOR to Ja­maica Luis Moreno is link­ing the phe­nom­e­non of de-risk­ing fac­ing Ja­maican banks to the ex­plo­sion of lotto scams. Speak­ing at the Anti-Money Laun­der­ing/Counter-Fi­nanc­ing of Ter­ror­ism (AML/CFT) con­fer­ence Tues­day Am­bas­sador Moreno noted that the Ja­maican Govern­ment and other in­ter­ests have been mak­ing strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion to United States au­thor­i­ties about the loss of cor­re­spon­dent bank­ing ar­range­ments.

He then noted to con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants that while big banks over­seas were end­ing those part­ner­ships, an es­ti­mated US$500 mil­lion to US$1 bil­lion was scammed from vul­ner­a­ble Amer­i­cans.

Lotto scam­ming has been a long-stand­ing and grow­ing prob­lem for the Ja­maican au­thor­i­ties who re­cently an­nounced the re­in­sti­tu­tion of a spe­cial task force to rein it in.

EX­TRA­OR­DI­NARY MEA­SURES

Some fraud­sters have been known to utilise-money trans­fer busi­nesses to col­lect their il­licit pro­ceeds, a phe­nom­e­non that at one time prompted Amer­i­can re­mit­tance com­pany West­ern Union and its Ja­maican part­ner, the GraceKennedy Group to take ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures to weed them out. Other re­mit­tance busi­nesses also tight­ened up on trans­ac­tions for the same rea­son. The am­bas­sador later told Gleaner Busi­ness on the mar­gins of the con­fer­ence that the US views lotto scam­ming as a clear and present dan­ger to the economies of both the United States and Ja­maica. He says to that ex­tent both coun­tries must work to­gether to solve the prob­lem.

“We well know that th­ese peo­ple use the bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions to trans­port money; that they use what­ever loop­holes they, can and we have to do ev­ery­thing to de-risk that as much as pos­si­ble and close those loop­holes,” said Moreno.

“We have to do that in a way that does not af­fect le­git­i­mate re­mit­tances or trans­ac­tions, and that’s not easy. We’re go­ing to have to make ad­just­ments on both sides, and that’s not easy,” he said.

The am­bas­sador out­lined the ini­tia­tives taken to shore up AML/CFT ef­forts in Ja­maica. He said the US is as­sist­ing with train­ing of agen­cies such as the Fi­nan­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion, the po­lice through MOCA, which in­ves­ti­gates or­gan­ised crime, along with reg­u­la­tory agen­cies.

“You know as well as I do that lotto scam­ming has caused an ex­plo­sion of vi­o­lence in West­ern Ja­maica. This has vic­timised thou­sands of per­sons in the United States, the most vul­ner­a­ble of our pop­u­la­tion, so it is some­thing that we have to work on,” Moreno said.

He noted that else­where that tough bank­ing reg­u­la­tions and due dili­gence on cus­tomers have proven very ef­fec­tive in coun­ter­ing the cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties of drug lords and in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Cali and Medellin drug car­tels, say­ing at one time Cali “was among the most so­phis­ti­cated crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions in the world”. Its mem­bers went to great lengths to amass their wealth and pro­tect it.

“Th­ese guys had ac­coun­tants with their MBAs from Har­vard Univer­sity. They had ac­count­ing pro­ce­dures that were coded so that the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, the most so­phis­ti­cated ma­chin­ery, could not crack,” Moreno said.

The am­bas­sador said that the US govern­ment was able to break the crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion by track­ing them through the bank­ing sys­tem and other for­mal trans­ac­tions.

Luis Moreno, US am­bas­sador to Jami­aca.

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