Prime Minister Andrew Holness, says that a comprehensive investigation will be undertaken to crackdown on the illegal sale of lands in areas across the island.
He said that the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have been tasked to investigate these scams and bring to book, all those persons involved, some of whom are known and are politically connected.
“Regardless of their political connection on both sides, we have asked MOCA and JCF to do a comprehensive investigation on this matter,” Mr. Holness said.
“We must clearly establish that no criminal organisation, no scammer, no don, no politician can tell anyone to go and occupy land that they do not legally own, whether it is private land or government land. Right across Jamaica, we have been receiving reports of land scams,” he noted.
Mr. Holness was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (Oct. 11).
He is urging anyone, who has been duped, or who knows of any possible arrangements for illegal transfer of Government lands, to contact MOCA, the Counter Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigations Branch (CTOC), Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (with responsibility for housing) or the National Land Agency (NLA).
Persons can also make a report through MOCA’s online platform at www.moca.gov.jm.
“Government has drawn the line in this matter of the illegal selling of Government lands. We will bring an end to this large-scale land scam. This is tantamount to obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, whereby criminal enterprises purport to give permission to build on public and indeed, private lands,” Mr. Holness said.
“This is a dangerous happening and as a country, we must be united and take a stand against this pervasive criminal activity and stop it from taking root,” he emphasised.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister encouraged persons who illegally occupy lands in the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Area, to contact SCJ Holdings Limited, which owns the lands, to assist in arriving at a solution.
“The Government is extremely sympathetic to the plight of persons seeking to own their own homes and we see the great display of ambition, but it cannot be done in the way in which they have gone about it,” he said.
“I have directed the SCJ to dialogue with these persons. I will not here say what the nature of the support will be, but as I have said before, it really depends on their willingness to cooperate with the government and the security forces,” Mr. Holness said.
The Prime Minister told the House that no completed structures were removed during the demolition exercise undertaken on lands adjoining the community of Clifton last Thursday (October 6).
He said that 10 incomplete, illegally erected structures were taken down.
“We were very careful, and we made sure to stay well within what was legally required and permissible, so we didn’t destroy any completed structures. We didn’t destroy any structure that anyone was visibly occupying, we didn’t throw out anybody’s furniture,” he pointed out.
He said that the Government could not allow the establishment of the subdivision to continue on lands designated for agriculture purposes.
“If this scam to illegally establish a subdivision was allowed to stand, it would have led to a massive land grab in the area…Since 2019, it was moving at a rapid pace.
“It would have displaced farmers but worse than that, we would have seen the establishment of a community by a criminal [network]. That is the worst thing, that is a threat to the sovereignty of the Jamaican State…it is a security threat…I could never allow that to stand. Everyone who gets land would have gotten it by virtue of a criminal organisation assigning it to them,” he pointed out.
The Prime Minister told the House that the process of regularisation for residents of Clifton has commenced, adding that they will receive their titles of possession later this year.
The Greater Bernard Lodge Development Plan will create an integrated community of 5400 acres of land of which 3027 acres are dedicated to agriculture.
The remainder is designated for housing, light industrial and commercial activities, social services, open and recreational spaces, and an urban centre.