Barbados should have an amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act in place within the first half of next year to ensure the country has an effective civil asset forfeiture regime.
That was the commitment given by Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite, as he addressed judges and other judicial officers from Barbados and the Caribbean during the opening ceremony of a Proceeds of Crime symposium under the Caribbean Criminal Asset Recovery Programme at the Supreme Court Complex.
The Attorney General stressed that having all those involved in the process trained in the necessary procedures was just as important as having effective civil asset forfeiture regimes in place.
???It is one thing to have the legislation in place, but unless you have all of the actors on board to ensure that you can bring the matters to court, then the legislation will not mean a lot,??? he stressed.
Mr. Brathwaite said Barbados had already started the process of training for police officers, officials at the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Customs and Immigration Department, police prosecutors, the Director of Public Prosecutions and his team.
???What I found in these sessions is that there are matters that you normally wouldn???t consider unless you are exposed. The whole issue after you seize an asset ??? ???What are your rights? and ???What are your responsibilities with respect to this asset in a small jurisdiction???.
???If you have the house of a known drug baron [for sale], who is going to be willing to purchase the house? What are our responsibilities as a State? Do we continue to insure it, [or] do we continue to maintain it? If you have a vessel where do you store it, [and] how do you store it? How quickly can you dispose of it given the fact that you might have challenges at the Supreme Court level or even at the Caribbean Court of Justice level?,??? Mr. Brathwaite queried.
The Attorney General made it clear that these were real issues that needed to be dealt with through training, where an appreciation of the full gamut of challenges could be examined for an effective civil forfeiture regime to be in place and work as required.
British High Commissioner, Victoria Dean, warned that unless legislation was enforced it would be viewed ???as little more than a paper tiger??? and criminals would continue to target those jurisdictions that appeared as ???soft touches??? when it came to dealing with money laundering and asset recovery.
She also cautioned that crime and violence could deter inward investment, especially in economies reliant on tourism, as well as hinder development. ???A proceeds of crime run properly, not only removes from the hands of a criminal their ill-gotten gains, but also sends out a healthy signal to decent, right minded people that crime does not pay,??? Ms. Dean said.
She suggested that such money and assets could be used for a worthwhile cause such as enhancing the criminal justice system, for hospitals and schools.