INDEPENDENT Senator Anthony Vieira has described the Unexplained Wealth Bill as a nuclear weapon in the fight against the white collar criminal.
He was contributing to debate on the bill in the Senate yesterday and was responding to an earlier contribution by Opposition Senator Wade Mark that the bill was targeting “poor people.”
“This is particularly targeted to the jacket and tie St Clair Mareva (a court order freezing assets).”
Vieira said the bill addresses “tief from tief make God laugh” and helps with identifying criminals. He said the Attorney General was right in describing it as an important bill and pointed out it was a serious departure from the country’s law where, generally, seizure and forfeiture of assets is for a criminal conviction.
“It is a big game changer, a nuclear weapon for law enforcement.”
He said there are a lot of people with properties and driving fancy cars, but there was a disconnect between what they earn and what they have.
He stressed, white collar crime undermines the economy and is costly and dangerous to society. Vieira said every citizen needs to be assured the legislation will not be used to intimidate or harass people in political activities. He said the President, police, Director of Public Prosecutions, High Court and an independent agency will all be involved in the process.
“I am satisfied that there are sufficient checks and balances to avoid the suggestion of any attempt by the government to use this oppressively.”
He said “dirty money” is an affront to decent and hard-working people. “And if we are serious about taking the fight to the criminals or removing the proceeds of crime that allow them to live off the people’s misfortunes and hard-earned wages, we need this law.”
He said the law will make TT a hostile environment for money launderers. Vieira advised law-abiding citizens to keep their receipts so they can explain their wealth, especially for expensive jewellery.
He predicted if the law becomes operationalised, there may be a decrease of some money coming into Trinidad as the appeal for illicit income will lessen somewhat.
He also called for compensation for people whose property rights were wrongfully intruded upon and preferably in the same proceedings.