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SVG first country in region to launch CARD

SVG first country in region to launch CARD

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St Vincent and the Grenadines has become the first country in the region to launch a Civil Asset Recovery Division (CARD).

While addressing the launch last Friday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conference room, acting director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) LaTeisha Sandy said those who engage in illegality are constantly evolving and so too must law enforcement in their efforts to combat crime.{{more}}

Sandy said the organization knows that in order to be effective in tackling transnational crimes, there must be partnerships such as the one they have with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) officers.

“The criminals have well established networks and so too must we,” she said.

The acting director added that St Vincent and the Grenadines has long had a successful regime for forfeiting cash to the confiscated asset fund. However, she said that the FIU is aware that when competence is strengthened in one area, the criminal elements seek to attack perceived weaknesses in others.

“The civil asset recovery division will therefore aid in the holistic fortification of the anti money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism system proving for remedies both civilly and criminally.”

Also speaking at the launch, Nicola Suter, the financial crimes advisor to the Bureau of INL said she recognized that this region continues to face a serious threat from all types of organized crimes.

“Criminal organizations are becoming ever more sophisticated, well resourced and audacious in their behaviour. The challenges we the criminal justice agencies face are both numerous and profound,” she said.

She further revealed that the worldwide cross-border flow of proceeds from criminal activities has been estimated to be as great as $1.6 trillion per year.

Therefore, in the Caribbean, drug trafficking often serves as a gateway crime, paving the way for other associated crimes such as money laundering, gangs, trafficking and firearms, along with other transnational organized crimes.

“It imperils development, security, stability, our economy and ultimately the trust that we place in our criminal justice system,” Suter said, noting that its most devastating effect is on the young impressionable members of society who are arrested and convicted, while their criminal paymasters remain untouched, unpunished and undeterred.

“The purpose of this legislation is clear, it is not aimed at innocent citizens whose lawfully acquired property is rightly protected by the constitution; it is aimed at property that the state can prove, on the balance of probabilities, has been obtained through unlawful conduct.”

Suter noted that by forming the new civil asset recovery division, St Vincent and the Grenadines has taken another vital step to ensure that it not only has the requisite legislation to recover the proceeds of crime, but it has the requisite resources to use these powers to their full effect.

“We have every reason to hope and believe that making a good living out of crime will be largely impossible in this country in the future” said Suter.

During her remarks, Attorney-General Judith Jones-Morgan said civil recovery provides a new and powerful weapon against serious crime.

She, however, stated that although post-conviction has been available as a tool for law enforcement here for over a decade, during the last 20 years the nature of crime has changed.

“Crime today is largely cross-border; it is hugely profitable and those who commit crime use increasingly sophisticated methods, including technology, which permit swift and undetectable transfer of money,” she said.

According to the Attorney-General, Civil Asset Recovery is a remedial statutory device, designed to recover the proceeds of unlawful activity, as well as property used to facilitate unlawful activity.

She said the introduction of civil recovery legislature sends an important message to would-be criminals and young people that a life of crime will not result in wealth and power, but ultimately in shame, imprisonment and poverty.

The Attorney-General added that criminals will not permitted to operate with impunity in our country, leading to frustration among law-abiding citizens and allowing the criminal justice system on a whole to fall into disrepute.

According to the AG, the act targets criminals by targetting their money and their assets, even if they themselves have managed to avoid criminal prosecution.

Jones-Morgan disclosed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) had been signed between the Government of SVG and INL for an attorney and an investigator to work with the CARD from within the FIU for three years to investigate and develop civil asset recovery cases.(AS)

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