Empowered by the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), the Financial Investigations Division (FID) has dealt a significant blow to the coffers of a number of alleged drug smugglers, freezing more than J$700 million in real estate, motor vehicles, bank accounts, furniture and expensive jewellery. “This is as a result of 14 restraining orders we got last year,” head of the FID, Albert Stephens, disclosed in a Gleaner interview. He explains that in three of the cases the restraining orders covered a network of J$500 million. One of the cases includes a suspected Jamaican drug dealer, who lives overseas and has been sending millions of dollars back to Jamaica. The other 13 restraining orders are wrapped around more than J$200 million in assets, which involve persons in the lotto scam, white-collar crime and so-called businessmen. “Apart from the J$700 million currently being restrained, we were able to seize J$137 million in cash last year,” said Stephens. Last Friday, the FID obtained a landmark Civil Recovery Order under the POCA to seize US$1.35 million in cash. In the same case, a recovery order also enabled the FID to confiscate two large residential properties in St Catherine, 13 bank accounts with accumulated balances of J$6.5 million and US$58,000, one Suzuki motorcycle, a Honda CRR 600 motorcycle, a Toyota Hiace and deposits on real estates amounting to more than J$4.1 million. “Our investigation involves investigators assigned to FID, who travelled back and forth to the United States under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), to collect critical evidence to bolster the cases, which were marshalled by legal officers and forensic experts, who played an important role during the trial of this matter,” the director of the FID said. The bespectacled Stephens warned criminals that the FID would remain resolute in its attempt to deprive individuals of wealth gained from unlawful activities and further deter the use of the country’s financial sector as a conduit for money laundering.