Government is hoping that it can seize sufficient assets of convicted criminals to finance its crime-fighting programme.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite last evening piloted the Criminal Assets Recovery Fund Bill 2016, which he said went further than previous legislation and sought to ensure where criminal activity allowed for confiscation of assets, these resources would be put into the Criminal Assets Recovery Fund and could be used in fighting crime.
Brathwaite said Government expected this to be a substantial source of funding in the battle against criminality.
“We are hopeful that the agencies would be so successful in terms of the confiscation of assets that there would be no need for them to come to the Consolidated Fund for assistance,” the Attorney General stressed.
He explained that nonetheless, there was provision for law enforcement agencies to continue obtaining traditional national budget funding if confiscated assets fell short.
Brathwaite spoke of seeing boats that had been seized lying idle at the Coast Guard Station for years until they were no longer usable.
“It is my hope that we will see the quick disposition of these criminal cases, and where applicable that these assets can be seized and utilized by us to ensure our greater security.
“We must take the profit out of crime where the opportunity allows us,” he insisted.
The Criminal Assets Recovery Fund Bill 2016, which was passed in the House of Assembly, seeks to ensure the continuation of the Criminal Assets Recovery Fund upon the repeal of the Transnational Organized Crime Prevention and Control Act 2011.
Opposition Member of Parliament and former Attorney General Dale Marshall supported the measure. However, Marshall felt it had not gone far enough because it failed to make provisions for compensation for innocent victims of illegal activity.
“If a CEO embezzles a large amount of money from a company, it would affect the shareholders, creditors . . . those individuals would then have to go through the civil procedure to try to recover; but we know that is very difficult,” Marshall said.
The Member of Parliament for St Joseph said that he knew of innocent bystanders who were injured because of drug trade activity, and asked why should there be no compensation for, “an individual who has been severely wounded, whether it is through gunshot, or chop-up?”
He also spoke of scenarios in which persons’ cars were stolen and destroyed in the course of illegal activity, but were left without compensation despite the fact that those responsible were convicted.
However, Brathwaite responded that while there was need for compensation of individuals in those circumstances, the administration was not yet fully prepared for such a measure.
“I accept that in the ideal situation, and in particular, the issue of criminal compensation for those who are injured, we will get there. Now is not the time.
“There are different methodologies that are in use, and given the infancy of our discussions I did not believe as Attorney General that we were in a position that we could bring a concrete proposal to parliament at this point in time,” he explained.