By Caribbean News Now contributor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — On October 16 and 17, 2018, the US Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), hosted an advanced mutual legal assistance workshop for regional attorneys in Barbados. This workshop follows the first mutual legal assistance seminar, held in Barbados in April 2018.
Building effective central authorities for mutual legal assistance in asset recovery matters is essential to ensuring successful outcomes in these cases. The transnational nature of serious organized crime poses major challenges for national justice systems.
The close geographical proximity of Eastern Caribbean states makes cross-border crime even more prevalent. It is vital that regional partners afford each other the widest measure of assistance permitted by their domestic law.
This workshop provided an opportunity for the specific points of contact for mutual legal assistance in each jurisdiction to further their knowledge of mutual legal assistance legislation and best practice. The workshop also provided the specific points of contact with an opportunity to use the tools that have been created after the last seminar, including the new regional mutual legal assistance website and handbook.
The Barbados government in particular is seeking to bolster existing legislation in an effort to safeguard the island’s reputation against the damaging effects criminal activity can have on the country’s stability and confidence of investors.
Permanent secretary in the Office of the Attorney General, Yvette Goddard, explained at the workshop that Cabinet had agreed to revisit legislation relating to persons who benefitted from criminal conduct, and noted that the Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime Bill was presently under study.
In addition, she said that the government would also be shortly considering bolstering the existing legislative efforts through the civil forfeiture legislation and strengthening criminal confiscation regimes against those persons who have been reasonably suspected of having gained these assets through illegal activity.
“It is recognized that such activities as human trafficking, fraud, insider trading, identity theft, money laundering, terrorism financing and securities issue have the potential to present the region with new challenges. We must remember always that investors are monitoring our activities,” she cautioned.
She said the trans-border nature of criminal activities such as organized crime, trafficking in persons, drugs and other forms of smuggling created a nexus to money laundering and the movement of other criminal financial assets.
Goddard warned that the convergence between criminals and professionals involved a blend of legitimate and illegitimate businesses which could bring extensive acts of violence to communities and generate corruption among public and private officials as well as law enforcement officers.
“The outcome is a disruption in social and economic stability and ultimate decimation in the fabric of society,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, the permanent secretary noted that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) also recognized the importance of developing laws and protocols to strengthen regional responses to some of these activities.
She added that, in recognizing the trans-border nature of crime, the Barbados government had adopted various pieces of legislation such as the Transnational Organized Crime Act to prevent human trafficking; the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention and Control) Act; the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Anti-Corruption Act.
“This legislation is intended to bring money launderers, traffickers and other criminals to justice and to disrupt opportunities for persons to benefit from ill-gotten gains,” Goddard stated.
She said, in the regional context, the Arab League Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance on Criminal Matters, which dealt with mutual assistance at the regional and sub-regional level, already exist.
Goddard added that significant strides were also made with China, specifically in the areas of extradition and mutual legal assistance on criminal matters.
“The government of Barbados signed these two treaties in March 2016. The treaties provided for the widest possible measure of legal assistance in connection with investigations, prosecutions and other proceedings related to criminal matters,” she said.