Civil Asset Recovery Bill Introduced in Belize’s House Meeting
In last Friday’s House Meeting, perhaps one of the most crucial Bill that was tabled was the Civil Asset Recovery and Unexplained Bill. It is a bill that seeks to hold persons accountable when it comes to their assets and riches. From our understanding, it is a far reaching Bill that can affect those scammers on social media to public officers and elected officials. Prime Minister John Briceno spent an extensive time in the House last week, explaining the establishment of a Civil Asset Recovery Unit that will have teeth to make the Bill effective.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “We want to have the FIU the ability to be able to go after unexplained wealth and assets that were illegally taken but at the same time we have to ensure that we also protect the rights of individuals because as I said in this country we live by the principle that you are presumed innocent until found guilty. Initially the way it was written it was written in such a way that the director of the FIU could just seize your assets without you being able to do anything and then you would have to try to find how you could defend yourself. So this, by making these changes what we have done is now that you have to go to the high court the FIU and then you go there and then you can defend yourself before your assets are seized. But we are also pointing out that that individual also has to come clean, to provide evidence how he or she or the company received that asset or how they have the wealth that is in their possession. An application for the unexplained wealth order can be made by the Civil Recovery Authority. Unexplained wealth orders have proven to be a powerful provision in tackling serious organized crime and corruption because we also know we have all of these drug people or “drug lords” within the country and you know they don’t work but they are driving these fancy vehicles so this will give you the ability to pull them in and then they would have to explain how they have their wealth, what work they do, what is their investment. So I am pleased to say that after consultations with the joint unions, we consulted extensively Madam Speaker we have ensured that a broad list of agencies may make referrals to the Civil Recovery Authority to pursue unexplained wealth orders. Persons who may make referrals include the director of the Financial Intelligence Unit representing that unit ‘s criminal investigation division, the director of the Belize Tax Services Department, the Comptroller of Customs and Excise, the chairman of the integrity Commission and the Commissioner of Police. All of them will have make referrals to the civil recovery authority.”
Prime Minister Briceno went on to note that for those who achieve unjust or illegal wealth, even if they are excused in a courtroom, the unit will still have ways and means to act.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “You know how many times you go to court and you know they do wrong but because of some technicality in the law they could get away. Well this will allow us to say you could get away but we will still be able to get back the asset or the explained wealth that you have. I would also like to highlight that this bill and the confiscation measures and unexplained wealth orders applies not only to politicians or ministers but to all public officers. In fact it is not limited to persons in the public sector but also to the private sector as well. It applies to and confiscation measures may be brought against all persons in connection to property they have obtained through unlawful conduct that is conduct that would be contrary to any criminal laws in Belize or conduct in other jurisdictions where if it had taken place place in Belize would have been an offense. So it’s important for the public to understand that this bill that we are introducing today the Civil Asset Recovery and Unexplained Wealth Bill, you know everybody talks about the politicians and there may be some good reason to do so but it will also apply to public officers, members of the police, immigration, customs, everybody within government. But it also applies to private citizens who are in the business of conning people, stealing, having monies that they can’t explain how they got their wealth. This bill further provides the necessary suite of investigative tools to allow the civil recovery authority to conduct thorough civil asset recovery investigations.”