Criminals convicted of financial and drug crimes in Barbados appear to be getting a helping hand from the most unlikely source –– the Proceeds Of Crime Act.
And Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite is about to change that with the introduction of civil legislation which would give police officers the power to move swiftly and confiscate the ill-gotten assets of such persons, even before their cases run their full course.
Brathwaite said today that under
the existing law, it was taking too long
to hit these convicts where it hurts ––
in their pockets.
He disclosed that the civil assets recovery legislation was expected to be introduced by early next year.
Addressing the opening ceremony of a Proceeds Of Crime Symposium for judges in the Caribbean at the Barbados Supreme Court Complex in Bridgetown this morning, Brathwaite said once the proposed new law was implemented, law enforcement officers would no longer have to wait until the
Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice made their decisions to be able to confiscate assets.
He was concerned that even after conviction and as the case moved through the various judicial phases, the criminal was allowed to continue enjoying illegally acquired gains.
“As the law stands now, you must have committed an . . . offence. In other words, and be convicted, and we are finding that that takes a bit longer than we would like, that is why we want to go the civil route, where we don’t have to wait until the matter is completely adjudicated,” pointed out the Attorney General.
“That’s exactly why we have bought
into it because of the time that it takes
and in the meantime, this individual is allowed to continue enjoying the spoils, as it were,” he added.
Brathwaite said there were 50 cases currently under consideration pertaining to financial crimes, adding that so far this year only eight people had been charged with money laundering.
“We are more active in ensuring that when possible, assets are confiscated. I am committed and Government is committed to bring the civil assets recovery legislation,” asserted the minister.
“I have a problem at a personal level, to be driving along and be told that X vehicle belongs to X-known drug baron and that he or she can drive around this country in beautiful-looking vehicles and I have to drive about my old vehicle. And once I have the power in my hands, we will do all that is possible to ensure that guys will not live off the proceeds of crime in this country,” declared the Attorney General.
“I hear stories about these individuals being able to assist families at Christmas. We cannot allow them to corrupt
On the issue of protecting people who legitimately buy over the properties of drug convicts, Brathwaite believed it was a difficult question to answer.
“Protecting people in a small community is a major challenge in small communities, where a person buys a drug trafficker’s house. It is not an easy issue to deal with.”
He argued that he would be speculating as to whether the trafficker would go after the new legitimate owner when he is released from prison. [email protected]