Senate Debates Civil Assets Recovery and Unexplained Wealth Bill in Lengthy Session
Yesterday saw heated debates in the Senate, over the Civil Assets Recovery and Unexplained Wealth Bill. It was perhaps the longest matter debated in yesterday’s session. Lead Senator for Government Business, Eamon Courtenay simplified how the bill would work after other senators had fielded concerns over the Bill.
Eamon Courtenay, Senator: “The first fundamental point to be made is that we’re talking about civil and not criminal. It is a fact that on many occasions something takes place and someone is charged matter goes to trial, and a witness does not turn up. The case tumbles down. An important document is sought to be tendered in evidence and when they look in the file, all of a sudden they can’t find the document. The case tumbles down. What the public is concerned about in circumstances where we’re talking about persons involved in activity who it is clear that there is a disconnect between income from their known activities and assets that they have is that they should be brought before a court to explain how they acquired that wealth. Senator Kevin Herrera raised the question about innocent until proven guilty. There is no criminal proceeding. No one is charged with any crime. So the question of being innocent does not arise. That principle does not arise.”
Beverly Williams, UDP Senator: “I just want to, I know you will tell me that there will be a time, but to say that at the time that the question is posed we will be asking for a division because we do not support in the form that the bill is presented.”
Eamon Courtenay, Senator: “Well, Madam President, I want to thank Senator Williams for calling for a division. We will know and the public will know who is for and who is against this law. Who is against civil asset recovery? Who is against unexplained wealth orders? We are going to find out today, Madam President who is for and who is against? Previews of coming attraction.”
While Senator Courtenay explained that a criminal action against suspected persons with unexplained or suspicious wealth will not be done right away, there is a process required for any criminal proceedings to take place.
Eamon Courtenay, Senator: “The first point I make, Madam President, is that we’re talking about a court proceeding. It must be supported by an affidavit that identifies the respondent that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the wealth exceeds the lawful wealth, that the grounds by which the applicant reasonably suspects the property is owned by the respondent or is under his control, and the grounds by which the applicant reasonably suspects that the property has been obtained through unlawful conduct. So that goes before a court. It is not Mrs. Yseguirre in her office deciding to do this and moves, she has to go to court. I believe certainly all senators, social partner senators, I believe all senators on this side and I believe some of the senators on that side are genuinely interested in providing in law for the civil asset recovery where the… only some of you I was never including you… are genuinely interested, Madam President, in providing in law for the civil recovery of assets where the person cannot explain their wealth.”