MOCA probe at FLA disrupts operation

Saturday, August 12, 2017

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AMIDST a growing scandal, the offices of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) were closed to the public yesterday as officers from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) continued their probe into allegations of corrupt activities by the agency.

The Jamaica Observer has learnt that MOCA officers copied files and data to aid in their investigations into the issuance of licences by the FLA.

Chief Executive Officer of the FLA Shane Dalling, who has been under fire for the past several weeks, confirmed that there has been disruptions at the agency due to the MOCA operation.

The police investigation was ordered following media reports that the FLA had approved licences which had previously been denied, to individuals on whom the police had uncovered “adverse traces”. It is said that some of the activities that the licencees in question are allegedly involved include gunrunning, murder and lottery scamming.

In the wake of the allegations, National Security Minister Robert Montague had summoned the board of the FLA to a meeting and on August 2, the five-member board resigned on the grounds that they wanted to protect their integrity and that of the agency. Jamaica House declined to say whether Prime Minister Andrew Holness had ordered the resignations, stating instead that he had addressed the matter “immediately and decisively”.

The FLA had maintained that it was responsible in its due diligence process, and that it constantly reviews and updates its information system and intelligence gathering on firearm holders and applicants.

The agency said, too, that it had met with MOCA in May of this year and asked the agency to be a part of the vetting process for applicants.

“In addition, the FLA has initiated a system to refer to MOCA more than 100 files of persons previously granted firearms. This action is as a result of information the new board has found that persons whose files were subject to the appeals process were being granted firearms before the appeal was heard,” the authority said.

As the scandal deepened, then chairman Dennis Wright said he had asked MOCA to open an investigation into innuendos being made against deputy chairman Dennis Meadows, regarding operations at the FLA.

Wright also said he has asked MOCA to investigate any approval of firearm licences which may be considered suspicious prior to 2016.

Meanwhile, all eyes remain on the FLA and its leadership, with Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting having already called for Dalling, a former councillor for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, to be removed from that position.

Bunting, in yet another swipe against Montague, has charged that the credibility of the FLA cannot be restored under the minister's oversight.

On August 2, Montague ordered a seven-day suspension of approval for firearm licences and that Dalling should give full support to the FLA's review board, led by Justice Seymour Panton, to ensure transparency and the integrity of the FLA. Dalling was also mandated to give an update on the status of the implementation of recommendations coming out of a ministry assessment — the Allen Report — on the FLA.

— Alphea Saunders




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