|Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite addressing the media at the press conference. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??|
As a means of removing any incentive to obtain cash for stolen goods, Government is looking to tweak out-of-date legislation, thus making it mandatory that persons offering jewelry and metals for sale must be paid in the form of a cheque.
This is an attempt to better regulate the Cash for Gold’ scheme and to prevent copper theft.
It will come in the form of the revamping of The Sale of Old Metals Act and the Old Metal Dealers Act, which are presently outdated in their provisions, since they were proclaimed in 1948; and hence have failed to provide law enforcement officials with the required authority to adequately respond to the challenges currently being faced by the trade.
At a recent press conference held at the Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, outlined these changes and stated that they have come in light of increased negative and criminal activity regarding the sale of gold, other precious metals and copper.
"Over the years, several entrepreneurs have found creative marketing approaches to exploit the financial benefits attached to the sale of these items.?? Hence, the recent demand and the spiraling increase in price for these commodities on the international market have led to their attractiveness by both business persons and those with criminal interests," the AG noted, while lamenting that "these entrepreneurial activities have brought with them some unintended harmful repercussions involving the criminal element and a spike in the crime of robbery against the person, theft as well as burglary."
He continued:?? "This relatively new enterprise, which is commonly referred to as the ???Cash for Gold Scheme,’ is conducted by some reputable and honest persons in the business community, while at the same time, it has attracted some questionable persons of interest.?? As a result, this scheme is proving to be of grave concern to police in Barbados, for left unmanaged, it has the potential to create a negative effect on the economic and social fabric of this country," Mr. Brathwaite declared.
Revealing statistics showed that in 2011 a total of 529 persons were the victims of attacks where jewelry was stolen, inclusive of robberies and theft from the person, Mr. Brathwaite disclosed this represented an increase of 34.3 per cent when compared to 394 such incidents in 2010.?? And, of a total of 406 of these crimes in 2011, jewelry featured prominently among the items stolen.
"The reality is that several law enforcement agencies in the Caribbean have found a direct correlation between the Cash For Gold scheme and an attendant increase in crimes such as burglary, robbery and theft from the person. In addition, Barbados is one jurisdiction within which there is a discernible link between these incidents of crime and this business enterprise as within the last several months theft of chains, rings and other types of jewelry have been escalating in private as well as the public place," the AG confirmed.
Noting that police intelligence sources hinted there was a direct link between stolen jewelry and its easy disposal in such non- traditional markets as clothing stores and other retail outlets, the senior government official indicated that "from several police reports some of the owners of these places of business have facilitated the disposal of stolen jewelry by allowing those persons to take selected goods in exchange for the gold.?? Not to mention there was also reason to believe these items were subjected to a process of alteration in appearance before being shipped to external markets."
The Minister also suggested "that a key development arising out of the Cash For Gold scheme continued to be the use of the media to generate interest in this activity, as was evidenced by the frequency with which advertisements appeared in local newspapers, thus inviting the sale of gold at arranged locations and private residences."?? He further added: "This particular set of circumstances reinforced the need for the trade in gold to be conducted from fixed locations with registration of these locations being mandatory."
Some of the proposed regulations are as follows: ??Record and proof of identification, which means any person engaging in the purchase of any second hand or precious metal, must provide the police with certain information of the person from whom the metal was acquired.?? Record of the transaction – this specifies that second hand dealers have to complete a transaction form at the time of the actual business deal.?? And, the second hand dealer must maintain a copy of the completed transaction form on the registered place of business for at least two years. Proof of ownership – the seller shall sign a statement verifying that the seller is the rightful owner of the goods or is entitled to sell, consign, or trade the goods. And finally, payment for sale of goods and stiffer penalties- it is recommended that penalties for breaches in the legislation should be stiff enough to be an effective deterrent.?? It is, therefore proposed that anyone who disregards the legislation will be guilty of an offence and will be liable on summary of conviction to a fine of $10 000 or to imprisonment for two years, or to both, or if convicted on indictment fined $50 000 or 10 years in imprisonment, or both.
In concluding, the Minister reiterated government’s commitment to "crack down" on this illegal activity.?? However, he pointed out that it would not be without its challenges.
"The challenge for local law enforcement to effectively respond to these offences is the out-of-date legislation and this problem is compounded by the presence of various marketplaces that are willing to facilitate the timely disposal of this stolen commodity.?? And, we need to start regulating this legislation.?? This doesn’t only affect homeowners, private enterprises and public entities but it could also affect any of us sitting here.?? This affects us all," the Attorney General asserted.??????????