A $50,000 fine or 10 years in jail or both.
These are the penalties awaiting persons found guilty before a court under the new Precious Metals and Second-Hand Metals Act 2013 passed in Parliament this evening.
Leading debate in the House of Assembly on the measure, Attorney-General Adriel Brathwaite told the Lower Chamber that the same penalties would be imposed on dealers who fail to register their business.
Brathwaite issued a warning that the new penalties were Government’s way of sending a signal to second hand metal and gold thieves that it was serious about dealing with this situation.
“There is a problem in this country with respect to the stealing of second hand metal and the stealing of jewellery,” noted the attorney-general.
He said the old legislation could not assist the authorities in attacking the problem, adding that it provided for fines as low as $48.
“We have a situation in Barbados, where households are deprived of their television antenas. So persons walk around or drive around in your constituencies, enter your homes and remove the antenas from the top of your homes and your solar water heaters,” he lamented.
“The grills in the road, that are placed there for the protection of the same individuals, that are placed there for the protection of cars and pedestrians, these grills are taken up and disposed of illegally,” he noted.
Brathwaite said this was why the Government thought it needed to address this issue urgently in order to assist the police and to give the law more teeth to act as a deterrent.
He said that in order for the act to serve as a deterrent, Government needed to ensure there was adequate policing of those operating scrap metal and second hand gold businesses.
“We met with the old metal dealers, then we met with those involved in the second hand jewellery [business] and we recognised that there are many hard working Barbadians involved in legitimate enterprise. However, the fact that there is a problem, suggests that somewhere along the line, individuals are still able to dispose of their ill gotten gain and that’s what we want to address,” asserted the minister.
He appealed to young people to put an end to the practice of stealing metal or gold.
Brathwaite also informed the House that dealers would be required to advice the police if they changed the location of their businesses and must hold any product bought for a specified period, in order to give police time to investigate possible theft of such products.
The legislation also provides that dealers require persons selling them gold or metal to produce identification and also be paid by cheque so there would be a paper trail. The attorney-general recalled that a woman who was on her way to church last Sunday, was deprived of her bangles in “broad day light”.
Brathwaite also gave notice that sometime in the future authorities may have to start searching luggage of persons leaving Barbados, because of reports of illegal exportation of gold.
“The modernisation of the legislation alone would not put an end … to these practices, but certainly we believe that we are now in a better position – that the police, as a result of the passage of this bill, would be in a better position to arrest, and when I say arrest I mean, to grapple with this problem,” he said.
Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin had been complaining that the cash for gold and scrap metal business had been a major headache for members of the Royal Barbados Police Force and that there was need for tougher legislation to address the matter. (EJ)