Jamaica Observer: KINGSTON, By Arthur Hall – A declaration from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that efforts are being made to “tighten the screws” on gangsters who continue their criminal enterprise from behind bars should come as good news for residents of sections of Hanover where a convicted gang leader is believed to be behind several murders and shootings in recent months.

The gangster, who is serving a 20-year sentence for shooting with intent and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, is believed to be issuing extortion demands as well as ordering murders from prison.

There is no official word yet from the police on the involvement of the gangster in the attack which claimed the lives of 44-year-old Omar Mahabee, 55-year-old Michael Smith, and 37-year-old Mark Austin on Wednesday night, and which left four others nursing gunshot wounds.

But Jamaica Observer sources are adamant that the order to attack people at a mini mart at the Logwood/Santoy crossroads in Hanover on Wednesday was issued by the man who continues to lead the gang despite being in a prison where he has formed alliances with several convicts and has access to gunmen from other communities outside of Hanover.

According to the sources, the gangster has decided that business people in the area, contractors and subcontractors must pay a portion of their earnings to the gang.

It is believed that the attack on the mini mart, in which all the people present were targeted, was a warning to people who have refused to pay.

Observer sources further claim that the gang members were involved in the recent killing of a contractor in the area, the murder of one of the contractor’s employees during a gravedigging, and the fatal shooting of the brother of a major lotto scammer who refused to share his loot with the gangsters.

In their official report the police have said that they believe extortion is at the root of Wednesday’s attack at the mini mart.

The police have already detained suspected members of the gang for questioning in connection with Wednesday’s triple murder, but Observer sources are adamant that, unless the prime minister makes good on his promise to clamp down on people in prison running the criminal underworld, there will be more bloodshed in Hanover.

Making his contribution to the 2022/2023 Budget Debate on Thursday, Holness said, “Too often our intelligence points to crimes being directed from prison, including the ordering of murders… As it stands now, our prisons are a national security risk.”

According to Holness, last year he tasked the minister of national security and Jamaica Defence Force to finalise designs for a high security prison and identify the lands where such a prison can be built.

The prime minister added: “The plans are close to completion and the land has been located and secured. We consider this a matter of great urgency to be expedited through the public investment process. However, regardless of how thick we make the walls, the number of cameras we install, and how far we locate the prison, if there is collusion between guards and prisoners, phones and other contraband will get in, and messages and instructions will get out.

“It is precisely why the Government amended the Corrections Act in December 2021 adding criminal sanction to those who facilitate and benefit from the trading contraband.”