KINGSTON – Amid the mayhem that has claimed more than 300 lives in St James this year alone, authorities in the United States (US) have revealed that an arsenal of more than 119 illegal guns and hundreds of assorted rounds of ammunition, seized in the State of Florida last month, was destined for the western Jamaica parish.
The weapons – four rifles and 115 pistols – were found in two blue shipping barrels, declared as “personal effects”, at the Miami International Airport on November 13 by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency’s outbound enforcement team, but the discovery was not made public until yesterday.
Robert Montague, Jamaica’s national security minister, revealed yesterday that the seizure was the result of joint intelligence operations between Jamaican and American law enforcement agencies but acknowledged that the cache of weapons discovered was troubling.
“Is someone preparing for war? How many more shipments are there? Who is paying for these arms? And for what purpose? Is someone planning to challenge the State? Who should get them? These are questions each one of us needs to ask,” Montague told The Gleaner.
The Corporate Communications Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) yesterday said that a major multiagency transnational investigation was now under way by the JCF and their United States’ law enforcement counterparts following the seizure.
According to an incident report obtained by The Gleaner, the shipping documents for the barrels containing weapons indicated that they were to be collected by a female in Montego Bay. “The shipment was due to be exported from Miami to Montego Bay, Jamaica, via Caribbean Airlines flight (information withheld) on 20/11/17,” the report said.
The document listed the sender as a female who resides in Coral Springs, Pompano Beach, Florida.
The United States Embassy in Kingston confirmed late yesterday that it was aware of the incident but said that it did not have all the details. “The authorities there are still investigating,” said Jeremiah Knight, counsellor for public affairs at the American embassy.
The incident report indicated that the guns were discovered during what the CBP described as a “routine inspection” of the barrels declared as personal effects.
“A physical inspection revealed various food items, cat litter, a cardboard box labelled as a four-drawer dresser, and one cardboard box labelled as a television stand,” the report noted.
“Further [checks] revealed that the personal effects actually contained four rifles and 115 pistols . . . ,” the report stated.
Montague said that the seizure of the weapons was an indication of what could be achieved when the good people work together. He said that it was also proof that the investment made by the government into the country’s intelligence network “was money well spent”.
“We must unite to deal with this frightening threat to life and property and life as we know it in Jamaica,” the security minister said.
Since the start of the year, the St James police have recorded more than 310 murders, surpassing the 265 recorded for all of last year. Investigators have blamed the carnage on the lottery scam, which is raking in millions of dollars for unattached, at-risk young people.
Assistant commissioner of police Warren Clarke, the former head of the Police Area One – which covers Trelawny, St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland – told The Gleaner last September that at the heart of the problem was the number of unemployed and unemployable men in several St James communities.
“They become ready resources for illegal activities such as lottery scamming as well as drug and firearms trafficking,” said Clarke then.
Among the weapons seized are:
• Four rifles
• 115 pistols
• One hundred and three 9mm cartridges
• Fifty .357 cartridges
• Fifty .45 cartridges
• Twenty-four .40 cartridges
• Forty .223 cartridges
• 139 magazines
• Several firearm accessories to include handgun backstraps, magazine parts, pistol grips, and butt stocks.