Operation Kingfish says it is now targeting several police personnel who are involved in the deadly Jamaica lottery scam operating out of Montego Bay, St. James.
(See Operation Kingfish Netting Big and Operation Kingfish Achieving Major Objective below.)
The head of the high-profile unit, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Glenmore Hinds, told The Gleaner yesterday that investigators were preparing to make further arrests in the case.
This follows a number of raids on Thursday that netted 32 people.
Fourteen of those arrested are believed to be key figures in the scam, and they will begin undergoing questioning in Kingston today.
"We are looking at all the persons involved in the scam and we realise that a single operation would not net all of them so it is an ongoing operation," said ACP Hinds.
"We know that it spreads far and wide and also across different social groupings and types of employment."
Already the scam has shaken confidence in Jamaica's information communication technology (ICT) sector.
Those involved are said to be closely linked to the notorious Stone Crusher gang in St. James, and ACP Hinds says he is confident that some of the masterminds are among those now in police custody.
The scam works by convincing elderly Americans that they have won the Jamaican lottery. They are then persuaded to wire funds so that their 'winnings' can be processed.
The lottery scam is reportedly being facilitated by unscrupulous ICT employees passing on personal information on American clients.
The police have disclosed that those involved, mostly males aged 18-40, make US$4,000 to $10,000, weekly.
During the simultaneous joint military/police raids in St. James and Hanover last week more than $1 million in cash, nine high-end motor cars, cellular phones, computers and documents were seized in Granville, Bogue Village, Westgate Hills and an establishment on Harbour Street in downtown Montego Bay.
The lucrative scheme has also been linked to several murders in the St. James Police Division.
Lynda Langford, country operations manager at Affiliated Computer Services, which operates 749 other locations around the world, said last year that the scam could force her company to pull out of Jamaica, costing over 1,400 jobs.
Before last week's raids there were more than 20 arrests but the reluctance of American victims to travel to Jamaica to testify in the local courts forced eleven of the cases to be adjourned.
Operation Kingfish Netting Big
Jamaica Information Service
December 14, 2004
It is just eight weeks old, but already the newly launched anti-crime initiative dubbed 'Operation Kingfish' is netting big, and Officer in charge, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Glenmuir Hinds is confident the programme will succeed.
"We are resolved to ensure that we accomplish the task that we set, and that is to dismantle the criminal network and we are focusing on the 12 major highly organized criminal networks in Jamaica," he tells JIS News in an interview.
He points out that the co-operation with international partners has made the task of disarming organised criminal gangs, which have been linked to the surge in gun violence and murder, more feasible.
"All the countries were in fact working the narcotics problem on their own, and once they decided that the problem has transnational scope, they took the decision that a similar response was required. The lessons that we learnt from that was that if we were to take the same approach to deal with major crimes, then we would anticipate that we would get similar results. Hence the co-ordinated approach to our major crime problem," he explains.
The formula has been working. Just two weeks shy of its birth, 'Operation Kingfish' made its first haul when American law enforcement agents, assisted by Jamaican and British counterparts, intercepted three boats and seized some $4 billion worth of cocaine destined for Jamaica. Five persons were arrested and the boat confiscated.
Additionally, a sophisticated ganja growing operation in Westmoreland was destroyed and persons involved in several smaller operations arrested. Subsequently, some 28 go-fast boats, suspected of being used in drug trafficking, were seized in western Jamaica.
"Things are being done, people are being held, and firearms are being recovered," the Assistant Commissioner points out. He notes that although there has been much cynicism regarding other anti-crime initiatives, Operation Kingfish is distinguished because of its multi-faceted approach.
"Operation Kingfish is not a squad but rather it's a multi-agency co-ordinating unit set up to analyze and co-ordinate intelligence to develop investigative leads and co-ordinate operational approaches. Operation Kingfish is largely driven by intelligence," he explains.
Operation Kingfish is also equipped with a social intervention component. This, he says is geared at filling the "void" created in communities with the removal of the criminal network on which persons might have become dependent.
He says that while a lot of work is already being done in these communities, the absence of a central co-ordinating entity was noted and so an effort is being made to link the programmes. The long-term aim, he says is to develop skills banks from the communities and identify skills so as to help place persons in jobs.
The Assistant Commissioner notes that a number of agencies, community groups and international partners have pledged their support to the programmes.
No ground is being left uncovered and Operation Kingfish is reinforced by help from the legal fraternity in developing cases and preparing them for presentation to the Courts.
"It is a major and significant difference," the Assistant Commissioner notes. He points out that the wisdom of this approach is to convert into evidence all the intelligence gathered so as to have well developed cases for the Courts.
"Other than just picking them up because you have some evidence, some information and then when they are released, they take on the profile larger than life, the idea is to ensure that the cases are developed in such a way that they will stand up in Court," he adds.
Where legislative changes are concerned, he says the necessary steps are being taken through Bills, some of which are being drafted and others are before the Houses of Parliament.
In the meantime, he explains that a public information strategy is a large part of the publicity campaign and serves to alert citizens as to the negatives of the "kindness" bestowed on them by so-called 'dons'.
The Assistant Commissioner is appealing to citizens to take advantage of the toll free help line established for persons with information on criminal activities.
"Persons can call in, feeling free that the information they are providing is secure and they won't be compromised," he points out.
As for the use of forensic science in investigations, he says much is being looked at in this area with help from international partners, as its value in crime investigation has been realized.
All the persons who are part of the Task Force in the operation have been carefully vetted and screened, and have been subjected to thorough background checks and lie detector tests.
National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips who spoke at the launch on October 19, highlighted the success of previous initiatives. The Minister said the 2002 Anti-crime Initiative and the campaign against major figures in narcotics trafficking, had achieved considerable success in disrupting the illegal drug trade.
He pointed out that one measure of success was that at least eight individuals, who had been the target of long-term investigations for their roles as high-level drug traffickers in the international arena, have been arrested. "These eight arrests led to the seizure of substantial assets worth millions of dollars," he said.
Operation Kingfish has as one of its objectives, the disruption of illegal trafficking throughout the central and western Caribbean with the help of its international partners.
The crime plan will also target active gang leaders and their cohorts in inner city communities islandwide in a bid to disrupt criminal gangs, which thrive on drug trafficking and gun violence.
"The main aim of the Task Force is to break up the organised and dangerous criminal gangs that are at the root of most of the gun violence," Dr. Phillips had explained.
Operation Kingfish Achieving Major Objective
Jamaica Information Service
December 06, 2005
Just one year old, and already Operation Kingfish is creating waves in the fight against organized crime, as it is successfully putting a big dent in the criminal networks in Jamaica.
With several organized criminal networks severely impacted, 140 illegal weapons seized, three illegal air strips used for trafficking drugs destroyed, and 235 persons arrested for various offences, head of Operation Kingfish, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Glenmore Hinds believes the Task Force is meeting its precise mandate.
Mr. Hinds tells JIS News that Kingfish's precise mandate is to dismantle the major organized criminal networks operating in Jamaica, which he estimates to be about 13.
He says it is important to identify the common theme among them, to better dismantle their operations. "They all have a common theme, in that they are all involved in illegal drug trafficking, illegal arms running and extortion, so we felt that it was necessary as a first step to starve these networks of funding," he stresses.
One of the first steps taken by Kingfish to ensure this was done, was to aggressively pursue maritime conveyance, which resulted in the seizure of some 53 boats as well as the interception of cocaine coming into the island.
But the Task Force did not stop there, as they sought to tackle the issue of illegal airstrips, three of which have been completely destroyed. "The other thing we looked at is if you impact on the maritime conveyance, then certainly the traffickers would then resort to some other mode and so we also began to look at our illegal airstrips and we were able to disable three of those," Assistant Commissioner Hinds points out.
In terms of impacting the major organized criminal networks, he says that one has been totally dismantled, the activities of five others have been severely disrupted, while the others have all been impacted in some way.
"Some key players in these networks were also arrested .and these were some of the major successes that we would have made during our one year of operation," he informs.
Based on these successes, Mr. Hinds says the progress made has been quite encouraging. "One would not want to say one is totally satisfied but I think the progress is quite satisfying," he tells JIS News.
Operation Kingfish has also seized some 12 metric tonnes of cocaine and some 4,300 pounds of ganja. This is in addition to destroying 7 hectares of fully grown ganja plants and some 225,000 seedlings, plus 13 nurseries.
While Kingfish is basking in its success, Mr. Hinds points out that the Task Force is really building on the successes and mistakes of other units.
"One of the things that was very evident when we started, is that we looked at the branches that would impact major organized criminal networks, that is intelligence operation and investigation, and the Task Force's mandate was to consolidate intelligence that is already in hand, to further collect that which is to be collected and analyse these, and then we determine operational approaches and investigative leads," he explains.
As such, one of the things that is working in Kingfish's favour, Assistant Commissioner Hinds says, is that there is a cadre of useful investigators. "We have been building capacities within them to ensure that we do perform investigative work to a standard that won't give too much difficulty in proving offences in court," he says.
"We do strive to ensure that our case preparation is to the standard that will almost certainly guarantee us conviction in our courts of law and so that is one particular area of focus that we are diligent about," he adds.
Mr. Hinds made special mention of the Task Force's toll free hotline, 811, which is managed by Crime Stop.
"So far, we have received over 90 actionable calls and in the majority of these they have provided useful leads in investigations, and have led to the discovery and recovery of illegal firearms and wanted persons. To the extent that we are receiving calls, which are actionable and which are proving quite successful, we think there is a level of trust that we have built and we will continue to improve on this," he tells JIS News.
As Operation Kingfish continues to fight organized crime, Mr. Hinds says the team members learn from each operation and each investigation, and the idea is to improve on them at all times. "It is a constant learning process and I would also want to say that our overseas partners certainly have brought some expertise to our investigations, so it is a process that we continue to learn from day to day," he says, adding that they rely on all the capacities that exist to ensure that they build cases and do investigative work.
The Assistant Commissioner says it must be remembered that there are other crimes that the Task Force will not necessarily impact on. "So to use the national statistic to judge Operation Kingfish would not necessarily be a good medium or a good yard stick, but to the extent that we can impact on the major organized criminal networks, I think that is a good one to be measured by," he says.
He says the work of the Task Force will be on-going until it achieves its goal, and they will also continue to identify illegal airstrips and to deal with illegal maritime activities. "To the extent that Jamaica is an island and we are always going to be challenged to police every square inch of our coastal waters, and that is a major challenge, but to the extent that we understand what is happening, I think we can have a impact on it," he says.
When Operation Kingfish was launched, it was partnered by the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, with assistance varying from country to country. This included the deployment of persons to work with the Task Force and the provision of technical advice and other forms of support.
The Assistant Commissioner is appealing to the general public to continue to provide the Task Force with useful information. "We guarantee that whatever we get we will act on in a prompt manner. We are also appealing to persons who are witnesses to serious crimes, that they need to come in and once we determine that they are witnesses, we will put them in a witness protection programme," he points out.
He has high praise for this programme, as they have never lost any of their witnesses. "We have had to look after our witnesses because it is one of our obligations to ensure that we secure them," the Assistant Commissioner says.