Justice Minister defends lottery scam laws

Jamaica's Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, is defending the lottery scam legislation that has been passed by House of Representatives.

Bert Samuels, a prominent local attorney, was quoted by the Gleaner newspaper, describing provisions in the legislation as scary and predicting that they will lead to people being afraid to conduct business in Jamaica.

He took issue with the section which states that a person could be found guilty of an offence if he is aware that the money being used in a transaction is derived from unlawful activity. The concern is that this goes against the Constitution which provides for the presumption of innocence.

However, Senator Golding, in an interview with RJR News, countered that there was no provision in the bill which could be interpreted as infringing on the individual's rights. According to the justice minister “the need to prove knowledge at trial is the gist of most of the offences on our law books."

Regarding the right of police to make arrests, he reiterated that "they have to have probable cause as to why they do what they do, and to the extent that we are not denying the right to apply for bail - we haven’t interfered with the right to apply for bail - so I don’t see this really as impinging on the rights of law-abiding citizens."

The Jamaican response to the lottery scam has taken on new urgency, with US media reports turning the spotlight on the huge number of American citizens, particularly seniors, being cheated out of their savings. Further attention will be drawn to the situation on Wednesday with US congressional hearings scheduled, to examine the impact of the scam and options for responding to the problem.

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