The Barbados government is casting its net wide when it comes to confiscating property acquired through crime. In soon-to-be-introduced amended legislation, law enforcement agencies would not only seize those assets of persons found guilty of drug or terrorism crimes but would also confiscate those involved in wide range of offences such as money laundering, corruption and arms trafficking.
The new Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime Bill 2019 will also provide for the prosecution of offenders who got rich off “ill-gotten gains” within the last 20 years, Caribbean360 reports.
A portion of the monies confiscated from the above-mentioned proceedings will go towards a regional account to help the Caribbean’s fight against crime, while the rest would help fund law enforcement in Barbados, said the Attorney General, Dale Marshall.
“It [amended legislation] is intended to strike at essentially those assets that are in the possession of the criminal element of our country, where those assets are either themselves the proceeds of crime or are intended or have been used in the commission of crime or in unlawful conduct,” Marshall told Parliament Wednesday
Barbados currently has a Proceeds of Crime Act, which was enacted in 1990 and amended in 1998 and 2002. But Marshall said the Act has deficiencies that the new legislation will address.
“The Proceeds of Crime legislation that we have today in Barbados and that has been here for the past 29 years, was focused solely on proceeds from drug crime or terrorism-related crime….If you put terrorism associated issues aside, effectively we look only at proceeds of drug-related crime. Now that is a glaring deficiency,” he said.
Barbados has the lowest level of perceived corruption in the Caribbean, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018.
Its new administration, however, announced in June last year that it intends to pursue and prosecute public officials suspected of corruption. It said it will retake assets gained illegally wherever in the world they are placed.
“In a society that has suffered so much under corruption, the existing Proceeds of Crime Act does not allow the authorities to seize the proceeds of those corrupt acts so the individuals who have been engaged in the acts of corruption, but have palatial residences, drive big fancy cars, own restaurants and bars and other enterprises, build apartments up and down Barbados- all arising out of taking bribes, the existing laws say that we have to, as the English would say ‘doff our hats’ and say ‘on your way’,” he said.
“Today, there are individuals who will earn their keep by laundering money, who will earn their keep by selling guns, who will earn their keep by being involved in human trafficking…”
“Let us face it, there can be little or no justification for maintaining on our books a statute that was so limited in scope that it only covered a small percentage of criminal activity. So we needed to change it,” he added.