The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), launched a new division to strengthen its operations.
The Civil Asset Recovery Division (CARD) was launched on Friday 22nd January at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Conference Room.
Speaking at the launch, the Attorney General, Hon. Judith Jones-Morgan, said that tackling serious organised crimes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a priority of the Government, and the Office of the Attorney General is committed to working with the FIU and other government departments to respond to the threat that serious organised crime poses to the country. She noted, "Civil Recovery provides us with a new and powerful weapon against serious crimes, and it is of vital importance that we utilise the powers to its full potential."
The Attorney General said that post confiscation has been available as a tool for law enforcement and prosecutors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for over a decade. She, however, noted that in the last twenty years the nature of crime has changed and crime today is largely cross border and is hugely profitable. She added that those who commit crimes use increasingly sophisticated methods including technology, which permits swift and undetectable transfer of money.
Hon. Jones-Morgan said that 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. "These provisions currently exist in Dominica and other jurisdictions worldwide. The rationale behind such legislation is to ensure that unlawful activity ought not to accrue and accumulate in the hands of those who commit unlawful activity. These individuals ought not to be accorded the rights and privileges normally attendant to civil property law," the Attorney General said.
She noted that it is therefore necessary for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to suppress the conditions that lead to unlawful activities, as leaving property in the hands of those who facilitate these activities can create a risk that he/she will continue to use that property to commit unlawful activity. She said that the introduction of Civil Recovery Legislation also 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 said that criminals will not be permitted to operate with impunity in our country leading to frustration among the law-abiding citizens and allowing the criminal justice system to fall into disrepute; therefore, civil recovery of the proceeds of crime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is governed by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2013, which amended the proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering Prevention Act that was CAP 181 of the revised laws of 2009.
That piece of legislation introduced civil recovery powers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is a significant step forward in the ongoing fight against crime. The Act came into effect on the 9th April 2014.
The Attorney General further stated that St. Vincent and the Grenadines welcomes this new addition to its proceeds of crime legislation and intends to fully utilise same in taking the profit out of crime. She noted that most crimes are motivated by profit, and that by recovering the proceeds of crime, a clear message is sent that crime does not pay and will also prevent would be criminals from furthering their criminality and decrease the risk of instability of the financial market.
Civil Recovery is relatively new to the Caribbean but has been used as a tool internationally for justifying serious crime in the international community for over a decade. St. Vincent and the Grenadine is a pilot in the Civil Asset Recovery initiative in the region.