Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Seizing criminal assets still on the cards

AS international governments laud the efforts of the countries in the Caribbean that have already passed proceeds of crime legislation and urge other regional governments to follow suit, Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, says that Barbados is closer to getting such a law on the statute books.

He made the disclosure while speaking to the media yesterday morning following the opening ceremony of the Regional Security System (RSS) Council of Ministers Meeting at the Hilton Barbados, which was chaired by Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart.

Barbados’ Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs,
Adriel Brathwaite (right), shares a word with Chief of Staff of
the Barbados Defence Force, Colonel Alvin Qunityne.
The Attorney General told the media that Cabinet has approved the decision to move in that direction, and the legislation, which will allow the State to confiscate the property of persons if it is derived from the profits of criminal activity or was used to facilitate the commission of a crime, is currently being drafted. His comments came as he made it clear that the Government is committed to seeing such legislation enacted, but there are other pieces of legislation that have to engage Government’s attention first.

“This year you would have known that we did the Barbados Revenue Authority Bill for example – that was more important to us at a national level. We’ve just finished the Procurement Bill, again at a national level that was [more important]. So it is a question of priorities, [but] we are going to get it done. The fact that Dominica went ahead and did it and St. Vincent has and whoever else… it doesn’t mean that Barbados isn’t committed; legislatively we may be ahead in many other areas and they are not, it is a question of national priorities,” he explained.

With that in mind, Brathwaite said that Barbados and its international partners are likely to have a difference of opinion on how civil assets recovery law should function, particularly as it relates to how the proceeds of crime should be used. He pointed out that the international position is that those proceeds should be plugged into areas such as law enforcement and drug rehabilitation to assist with their work. But he said this country’s “philosophical position” is rooted in a belief that any assets which are seized should go into the Treasury and then a decision can be made as to how it should be utilised.

“So that is probably the next battle you are going to hear – that in fact Barbados should do what others are doing; but that is our philosophical position,” he affirmed.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, United States Ambassador to Barbados, Dr. Larry Palmer, referring to the benefits of such legislation and calling on countries yet to pass such laws to do so, suggested that criminally obtained proceeds, once seized, can be used by Member States of the RSS to fund their commitments to the regional security body, while attacking drug cartels where it hurts them most – in their wallets.

Palmer is of the opinion that since Member States benefit from the collective security provided by the RSS, they should all contribute equally to its operations.

“The RSS can function only with collective support from each of its Member States. These are difficult economic times, with limited resources and austere budgets, however, it is imperative that we continue to provide resources for citizen security and stability in the region, because together we can build on a strong foundation and work to better our shared Caribbean home,” he added. (JRT)

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