DARIEN… if you benefit from breaking the law, the FID will utilise POCA to remove that benefit
A St Andrew businessman who was convicted of breaching the Pharmacy Act has been fined $6.4 million under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), the Financial Investigations Division (FID) revealed on Monday.
According to the FID, the case had its genesis on April 11, 2017 when the law enforcement agency conducted an intelligence-led operation at a commercial premises along Constant Spring Road in St Andrew which led to the businessman, Chee Chung, being charged with unlawful possession of a quantity of products, identified as bleaching cream, stored for sale contrary to Section 26 (1) (h) of the Pharmacy Act.
“The products contained substances which are classified as ‘List two and List four drugs or prescription drugs’ and would require a medical doctor’s authorisation before use. Chung was also charged with breaches of Section 210 of the Customs Act and breaches of Section 4 (1) of the Food and Drugs Act,” the FID said in a news release.
The agency said that on October 5, 2018 Chung was convicted in the Corporate Area Parish Court for breaches of the Pharmacy Act. A verdict of not guilty was returned on the charges related to breaches of the Customs Act and the Food and Drugs Act.
However, the FID said it successfully made an application to the Supreme Court on October 5 for Chung to be committed for consideration of a forfeiture or pecuniary penalty order pursuant to Section 5 of the POCA.
A pecuniary penalty order is granted in a specific amount after the court, upon hearing evidence concerning a convicted offender’s assets and expenditure, is satisfied that the offender has benefited in the said amount from his or her criminal lifestyle or from any specific crime.
The FID said it presented evidence proving that Chung’s lifestyle was, in part, financed by the unlawful sale of the products.
Chung, the FID stated, did not contest the charges and was cooperative throughout the trial. This, along with other technicalities throughout the life of the trial, resulted in the pecuniary penalty order being granted in the amount of $6.4 million on March 23, 2023 in the Supreme Court by Justice Georgiana Fraser.
“The genesis and passage of this case through the court should be a reminder to the public and business operators of the strength of POCA,” the FID release quotes its Principal Director of Investigations Keith Darien.
“If you benefit from breaking the law, the FID will utilise POCA to remove that benefit. Our law enforcement colleagues are becoming increasingly vigilant in looking beyond predicate offences to identify where a benefit has been derived from the criminal activities for which persons have been charged or convicted,” Darien added.
“Continued collaboration across law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies will result in more cases such as these being prosecuted in the courts. We urge business owners, employees, and the public to increase their awareness of POCA while generally ensuring adherence to the laws which govern our conduct as citizens,” he said.
Chung was represented by King’s Counsel Peter Champagnie.