Trinidad AG introduces unexplained wealth bill

(Trinidad Guardian) If in­no­cent cit­i­zens have noth­ing to fear or hide, the Civ­il As­set Re­cov­ery Un­ex­plained Wealth Bill should not scare them.

This was the mes­sage At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi sent to the pop­u­la­tion in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, as he read out the 75-clause bill which seeks to cre­ate a civ­il as­set re­cov­ery and man­age­ment agency for the re­cov­ery of crim­i­nal prop­er­ty through re­stric­tions in deal­ing with civ­il as­sets re­stric­tion, for­fei­ture of crim­i­nal prop­er­ty and the man­age­ment of crim­i­nal prop­er­ty.

Al-Rawi said the bill was specif­i­cal­ly craft­ed to take the prof­its out of crime, which is the num­ber one is­sue af­fect­ing T&T.

He said the Op­po­si­tion Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress was fa­mil­iar with the law, as he not­ed that un­der the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship regime then na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty min­is­ter Gary Grif­fith took leg­isla­tive pro­pos­al to Cab­i­net to tack­le civ­il as­set for­fei­ture.

Faris Al-Rawi

“That Cab­i­net de­ci­sion for a pol­i­cy for civ­il as­set for­fei­ture was with­drawn by dic­tates from that Cab­i­net on March 20, 2014. And If I could para­phrase what Com­mis­sion­er (Po­lice) Grif­fith told me …he was beat­en with a big stick to run out the Cab­i­net un­der this par­tic­u­lar leg­isla­tive re­form,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi said if they (Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship) ran Grif­fith with a big stick then, he knew what to ex­pect in the House yes­ter­day.

“We ex­pect them to come with the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty talk, con­sul­ta­tion talk, ask for a Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee and ask for more time,” he said.

The AG said he ex­pect­ed the Op­po­si­tion not to sup­port this law.

“This law is not for the nov­el. This law is for the brave to pi­lot and push through.”

The AG as­sured that the bill will not go af­ter tax­pay­ers and the work­ing class who can eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy how they ac­quire their wealth and as­sets, but ban­dits who wear gold chains and dri­ve Mer­cedez Benz and BMWs.

“That is not the case with peo­ple who have umpteen as­sets that they can­not ex­plain or where they are hid­ing their as­sets by not de­clar­ing who they ac­tu­al­ly are.”

Such peo­ple, he said, would have to dot their Is and cross their Ts in a court of law.

In part five of the bill, which deals with un­ex­plained wealth or­ders, Al-Rawi de­scribed this sec­tion as a “dy­na­mite pro­vi­sion of the law.” He drew ref­er­ence to St Vin­cent and the Grenadines, which put in­to their laws un­ex­plained wealth or­ders that tar­get­ted ban­dits who bling large quan­ti­ties of gold and pa­rad­ed on the streets “en­tic­ing peo­ple to join a crim­i­nal gang.”

These wealth or­ders, Al-Rawi said, are done con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly.

The AG added that in­di­vid­u­als whose prop­er­ties are for­feit­ed are still called up­on to ex­plain their wealth.

“And who bet­ter to ex­plain how you bought your house, how you have a man­sion worth X or Y, how you have a car? And who bet­ter to ex­plain this than the per­son who owns it? Not every­body is brave enough to leave their name on a record for full pub­lic in­spec­tion.”

In re­sponse, Ca­roni Cen­tral MP Bhoe Tewarie ob­ject­ed to the bill, stat­ing it lacked clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence.

Tewarie said the bill has over­reach­ing pow­ers which put or­di­nary cit­i­zens at a dis­ad­van­tage and has the po­ten­tial for po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence and ma­nip­u­la­tion.

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