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Sunday 18 August 2019
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AG: Opposition amendments mostly insignificant

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi

The amendments which were accepted from the Opposition included changing the word "may" to "shall" and deleting the words "it" and "the" from the Civil Assets Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill.

In an interview with Newsday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said changes to the bill, which was approved by Parliament on Monday night with Opposition support, did not have significant impact on the legislation except for one important amendment.

"The Opposition presented a piece of paper with 63 lines on it and I've seen people from the UNC say the Leader of the Opposition schooled the Government. From that piece of paper of 63 amendments we accepted eight, three of which we had in our own amendments. The first amendment was to change the word 'may' to 'shall' and the second (ammendment) was to change the word may to shall. The third (ammendment) was to change the tenure of the asset trustee from seven years to five, and the fourth to change the deputy from five years to four. The last one was delete the word 'if' and the word 'the,'" Al-Rawi said.

He said the Government accepted one important amendment from the Opposition which was to place a seven-day time limit for the service of the interim orders.

"That was an important one which we accepted from the Leader of the Opposition."

He said Government brought few amendments.

"Our amendments, which we had indicated since the debate and over the weekend, were to make sure we were dealing with only specified offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Secondly, we did the exception for tax matters beyond six years and, thirdly, we made sure that there was harmonisation between the civil asset route and the explain your wealth route. That was essentially it. We bumped up as well the category of people who could apply and instead of any police officer we took it to commissioner and senior superintendent and we took instead of any customs officer, we took it to comptroller so that's it.

"Politics aside I think at the end of the day the Opposition agreed that this was law that had to be supported and they would be on the wrong side of the political equation if they were to say no, because then it would be a question of who they were protecting.

"Mrs Persad-Bissessar put out a very pointed attack at me in particular, let the AG explain his wealth. I said yes. I've been explaining wealth as any politician has, in my case for the last 13 years plus, under the Integrity in Public Life Act. I'm prepared for this law. The real question is are the pumpkin patch householders, are the equipment-blacked-out renovation ministers prepared to explain this law. We don't think we have issues in that regard but you can point to the AG all you want, that won't change the price of the equation for all subjected to it. This is good law. It has the ability to improve our position in the war against crime and we stand by this law."

Read a full Q&A with Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill in the Sunday Newsday.

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