ROSEAU, Dominica, Thursday April 10, 2014, CMC – The two-day eighth annual regional Proceeds of Crime Conference began here on Wednesday with Caribbean countries being urged to strengthen measures aimed at curtailing the activities of criminals that could undermine national security.
“This conference is important because serious and organized crime threatens national security by fueling violence, breeding insecurity, creating instability and weakening governance.
“In doing so it poses a significant threat to prosperity, threatening economic growth by discouraging inward investment and creating barriers to business,” said Eamon Kearney, the Programme Manager-Caribbean Criminal Assets Recovery Programme (CCARP).
The conference, funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and hosted by Dominica’s Financial Intelligence Unit, is part of the DFID’s initiative that covers the seven independent countries of the Eastern Caribbean, along with Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Montserrat.
Kearney told delegates that criminals often fight harder to protect their assets from confiscation than they do to avoid going to jail.
He said the conference is an opportunity for the Commonwealth Caribbean ‘to share best practice and discuss new and innovative ways of recovering assets from criminals.
“Financial gain is very often the motive behind serious and organized crime. It is certainly our experience in the UK that criminals fight harder to protect their assets from confiscation than they do to avoid the prison sentence imposed for their crime.
“Having in place a robust, asset recovery regime sends a very clear message to those engaged in serious organized crime that they will not profit from their criminality,” he added.
Kearney said Dominica’s decision to amend legislation regarding the proceeds of crime, was a bold statement designed to challenge the criminal elements.
“Dominica has already indicated that it is up for this fight by passing the amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act in May of last year, which include full civil forfeiture powers, the first jurisdiction in the independent Eastern Caribbean (country) to do so…”
He said that since the legislation was enacted last year, an estimated EC$362,000 (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) had been seized from criminals.
“The government of Dominica should be commended for taking these bold steps. Taking assets of criminals provides the unique opportunity to reinvest this money in law enforcement, the criminal justice system and social programmes that help the victims of crime and those in society most affected by crime,” he said.
Meanwhile, Attorney General, Levi Peter, who addressed the conference, said if the benefit of acquiring assets through crime is removed, there will be less incentive for individuals to commit crimes.
“The Dominica approach has been to do all that we can from a government perspective to holster the tools to fight this criminal activity by enhancing the legislation to support those engaged in law enforcement,” he said.
Peter indicated that when an asset is seized from criminals, it is deposited into the Assets Forfeiture Fund to be reinvested into the economy.
He encouraged participants of the conference to recognize the importance of the work that they do.
“The work that you do underpins the stability of our various jurisdictions and ultimately our region as a whole and it may be said that it filters in on the stability of the international financial system as a whole,” he said.
“If we as individual jurisdictions do not have a substantive and robust financial system that is considered and recognized to be of integrity then the results will be that the quality of life for our various inhabitants will be greatly diminished.”
The main purpose of CCARP is to help build the capacity and capability of law enforcement agencies, financial intelligence units (FIUs), public prosecutors and the judiciary by enhancing their efforts in countering serious organised crime, particularly drug trafficking.
To date, countries participating in the CCARP have removed EC$8.6 million (One EC dollar = US$0,37 cents) and frozen more than EC$38.7 million from criminal organisations across the region excluding Jamaica. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)