Extortionists add ‘tax’ to fees after police clamp down – transport operators
What’s worse, a number of taxi and bus drivers say efforts by police to clamp down on the illegal scheme have resulted in criminals demanding more money from them.
"Since the police stepped up their operations, the (extortionists) are asking for more money, saying is ‘tax gone on’,” a cab driver, who services the downtown Kingston area, told Loop News on Tuesday morning.
He said: "They have been demanding that we pay as much as $700 for small buses and some taxis, and $1,300 for larger buses daily.”
A senior member of a well-known organisation that represents bus and taxi operators in the Corporate Area have confirmed the reports but asked that his identity not be revealed.
“Yes, we have received reports from members that extortionists are demanding as much as 50 per cent more across the board,” he said.
Some operators say they intend to resist the calls for more money but said criminals are now moving their operations from the transportation hubs to routes that they are forced to travel.
"They make the demands and have men on the road watching to see which set of operators are complying,” one operator told Loop News.
The operator said that those who fail to follow rules are attacked or their lives threatened.
Those who spoke to Loop News have asked not to be named for fear they could be attacked.
For years, criminal networks, including that of the Presidential Click led in the past by Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, have made millions of dollars extorting business operators, higglers and taxi operators, especially in downtown Kingston. The money ensured the expansion of criminal activities and the swanky lifestyle of gang members, who were part of these illicit networks.
The extortion racket in downtown Kingston seemed to have been busted in the wake of the May 2010 operation to apprehend Coke, who was eventually extradited to the US where he’s currently serving time for criminal activities.
However, as the shock of the operation wore off, reports started emerging that criminals were again trying to extort higglers and business operators, to include wholesale operators.
While the police have found it difficult to tackle the problem - as victims are often too fearful to come forward with their complaint - they have had some successes. Recently, police arrested and charged five suspects in relation to an extortion ring across three parishes that saw criminals distributing letters demanding structured cash payments from business operators.