Privy Council ruling paves way for FID to forfeit approximately J$150M from delayed cases

The Financial Investigations Division can now resume 37 cash seizure/forfeiture cases before the courts which were held in abeyance, some dating back to 2012. The cases, which all commenced by ‘notice and affidavit’, have cash amounting to approximately J$150million hanging in the balance.

The cases were stayed pending the decision of the Privy Council on a local case – [Application by Inspector Pilmar Powell pursuant to Section 79 of the POCA for forfeiture of cash seized from parties Patrick Spence, KurBitron Ltd. and Frederick Graham].

This case commenced by ‘notice and affidavit’ and became significant in 2015 because then, Jamaica’s Court of Appeal ruled that any cash forfeiture cases which started by ‘notice and affidavit’ and not ‘plaint and particulars’ had commenced incorrectly and were therefore void. The result of the ruling would see all monies belonging to the defendant(s) being returned without further trial.

However, the FID, acting for Inspector Powell, filed an appeal to the Privy Council in July 2015. On February 22, 2021 the law lords overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal and ruled that “the notice and affidavit instead of a plaint and particulars of claim did not constitute a nullity and the notice should be treated as a plaint”. This meant that the cash forfeiture trial(s) could proceed.

FID’s Chief Technical Director Selvin Hay said: “This ruling by the Privy Council is an important one and warmly welcomed by the FID. We are now able to proceed with completing these cases before the courts, thereby clearing the backlog. The ruling also vindicates the FID as we continue to honour our mandate of taking the profit out of crime, doing so within the ambit of the law.

“While we continue to face these challenges presented every day in the field, we consistently deliver strong results; for this I would like to publicly commend the FID staff. I invite all well-thinking Jamaicans to do their part by remaining on the right side of the law and encouraging others to do the same.”

The table below shows the FID’s performance in cash forfeitures over the period 2018 – 2020.

Year Amount Forfeited
2020 J$4.83M and US$22,500
2019 J$1.49M and USD$77,884
2018 J$2.99M and  US$100,937