The Financial Investigations Division (“the FID”) was successful today in obtaining a cash forfeiture order totalling Four Hundred and Eighty-Five Thousand Seven Hundred United States Dollars (US$485,700.00) in the Corporate Area Parish Court. The cash was seized on December 3, 2011, from two South African nationals, Mr. Mohammad Asif Ahmad and Mr. Faisal Muhammad, when they landed at the Norman Manley International Airport.
During their processing by customs officials, the defendants lied about the amount of cash they were carrying but the cash was eventually found in hidden compartments in their luggage. When asked the purpose of the cash, the defendants said that they were businessmen and came to Jamaica to buy cellular phones. The defendants however could not advise of the suppliers from whom they intended to purchase the phones nor their planned method of transporting the phones out of Jamaica. The FID had previously applied for a cash forfeiture order in the matter before the then Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court in 2012. The defendants did not participate in the hearing of the application and same was conducted in their absence in 2013. In February 2013, that court refused the FID’s application for forfeiture and ordered that the said cash be released to the defendants. The FID filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.
Since the men resided in South Africa, the FID sought and obtained permission from the Court of Appeal to serve the defendants in that jurisdiction. The FID had to engage attorneys in South Africa in order to effect the required service. The men filed no documents regarding the appeal and made no appearance. The appeal therefore progressed in their absence. At the conclusion of the appeal, the Court of Appeal ruled that the matter should return to the Corporate Area Parish Court for a retrial.
The FID complied with the order of the Court of Appeal and the matter was brought back to the Corporate Area Parish Court for a retrial. Again, the FID sought and obtained permission to serve the defendants in South Africa. The FID had to engage the service of attorneys in South Africa in order the effect the required service. Despite these significant costs (approximately USD6,500.00), the FID did not hesitate as it was resilient in its belief that the case had strong merits.
The retrial of the matter therefore commenced on the 29th of January, 2018. The FID called a total of five witnesses, four of which had given evidence in the previous hearing in 2013. Having been satisfied that the cash was unlawfully obtained or intended for use in unlawful conduct, the Corporate Area Parish Court granted the cash forfeiture order in which the sum Four Hundred and Eighty-Five Thousand Seven Hundred United States Dollars (US$485,700.00), plus interest accrued thereon was ordered forfeited.
Chief Technical Director of the FID, Mr. Robin Sykes, has applauded the efforts of the investigators, lawyers and witnesses (which included witnesses from the Jamaica Customs Agency and the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency) in ensuring that this application was successful. “This shows the persistence of our officers and their steadfast commitment in pursuing matters to the end even in the face of an adverse decision”, said Mr. Sykes. Mr. Sykes further noted that the case also showed the need for the FID to have sufficient resources to be able to meet the demands of cross border litigation to properly fulfil its mandate of taking the profit out of crime.
Monies forfeited pursuant to the cash forfeiture regime under the Proceeds of Crime Act are deposited to the Consolidated Fund.
For further information contact:
Communication & Public Relations Branch
Ministry of Finance and the Public Service
30 National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Tel: (876) 932-4656/4660/4655
Contact: Elaine Oxamendi Vicet/Kadisha Sharp @MOFPJA https://www.facebook.com/mofp.gov.jm