POLICE Commissioner Gary Griffith said yesterday legislation to target people’s unexplained wealth and property will help police fight white-collar crime.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi earlier said Griffith had brought similar legislation when he was national security minister under the former People’s Partnership government.
The AG claimed Griffith told him he was “beaten with a big stick” on this.
‘It is on record’
“I know that if in 2014 they ran the then-minister of national security with a proverbial big stick from the Cabinet on the concept of civil asset forfeiture, I know what we are expecting today,” said Al-Rawi at the Parliament sitting during the debate of The Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill, 2019.
Contacted by the Express, Griffith said: “As the Commissioner of Police, I try to say as little as possible when I was in another place. What I can say, it is on record that I did draft a bill for civil asset forfeiture because four years ago I saw it as something very instrumental that can deal with white-collar crime.
“As the Commissioner of Police now, all I can speak abut is the present status. Something along that line will play a very big part towards assisting the Police Service in dealing with white-collar crime.
“We need a bill like this. It is straightforward—if you did no wrong, and if you can account for how you acquired your assets, then you have nothing to be concerned about.
“This type of law has proven to be instrumental worldwide in targeting and apprehending certain elements who have acquired wealth by criminal means but continue to beat the system.
“For it to be fully effective however, the State must also ensure that gang leaders and criminal elements do not get State contracts as this can be used as a cushion to justify their wealth,” he added.
Only criminals need worry
The AG said yesterday the bill does not require a special majority as he emphasised its intent was to tackle the scourge of crime.
He said the law applies to all recoverable property, even property acquired prior to the commencement of the act.
Al-Rawi said only people who have criminal conduct have to be concerned about this law.
“The vast majority of people in this country...are PAYE people, they paying as they earning under income tax law because they are employed, Madam Speaker, and there is an easy and rational connection between their wealth and their assets,” he said.
“That is not the case, however, with the bandit round the corner, with gold-chain-wearing men that don’t have a job all day long, driving Mercedes Benz and BMWs.
“That is not the case with people who have umpteen assets that they cannot explain, they are hiding their assets by not declaring who they actually are or they putting it under trusts or other arrangements.
“Those people are people who have a few things to dot their ‘i’s and cross their ‘t’s in a court of law,” he said, adding that in St Vincent the law successfully stopped gold-chain-wearing men from enticing youth into crime.
At the committee stage of the bill, the AG said he would recommend a broadening of the law to include people who have absconded the jurisdiction.
“There are people who have left this country owing money, having engaged in criminal activity who are in non-extraditable jurisdictions like Panama...who ought to find themselves the subject of this law,” he said.