Concentrate on organized crime, not ‘commercially viable’ seizures: Cullen


Cullen fee’s report seems to upbraid B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Workplace for specializing in low-hanging fruit.

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The Cullen Fee report on cash laundering underlined the inefficiency of the province’s civil forfeiture regime, saying the deal with low-value seizures is out of step with “the massive quantity of illicit funds being laundered via the province every year.”

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The report’s claims match a latest Postmedia sequence that confirmed as a lot as 85 per cent of forfeitures filed by the province are price lower than $75,000, and that the seizures largely focused low-income neighbourhoods, which activists say are already over-policed.

“The quantity and worth of unlawfully obtained belongings seized via the asset forfeiture system in British Columbia is shockingly low,” the report writes. The Civil Forfeiture Workplace seized roughly $16 million in 2021.

“What they’re saying is maximize your useful resource use,” mentioned Bibhas Vaze, a lawyer with in depth expertise litigating civil forfeiture circumstances. “​​Don’t deal with low-value stuff.”

“The entire downside with administrative forfeiture and the low-value stuff is that it doesn’t require a lot focus in any respect, and that’s why they do it.”

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Underneath B.C.’s forfeiture legal guidelines, if police wish to seize items they think are proceeds of crime, they need to make a referral to the Forfeiture Workplace. For objects price greater than $75,000, the workplace should file a declare in courtroom and show it’s extra doubtless than not that the products are the results of illegal exercise.

For items beneath $75,000, the regulation permits police to grab private belongings — most frequently money, vehicles and telephones — by offering the proprietor with a discover of declare. If a forfeiture isn’t disputed inside 60 days, confiscated belongings mechanically change into the property of the federal government.

Many of the worth of seized items are funnelled again into crime-prevention packages, however police do revenue from the seizures, within the type of know-how, coaching and grants.

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Jason Sharman, a professor of politics at Oxford College who was an knowledgeable witness on the Cullen Fee, has referred to as B.C.’s forfeiture legal guidelines “a failure of management.”

“Your job isn’t going after a ’97 Toyota Camry,” he mentioned. “It’s going after the most important crooks.”

The Cullen report famous that “the Civil Forfeiture Workplace must be inspired to pursue circumstances which have the best affect on organized crime teams, no matter whether or not these circumstances are ‘commercially viable.’”

It additionally proposed increasing the present civil forfeiture regime in B.C. and pursuing civil forfeiture extra vigorously. Cullen advisable the Forfeiture Workplace rent extra investigators, pursue circumstances immediately fairly than await police to ahead them, and shift to a government-funded company so income from forfeitures would go on to authorities.

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“I learn this as saying, ‘Go more durable on civil forfeiture,’” mentioned Jessica Magonet, employees counsel on the B.C. Civil Liberties Affiliation.

“It was fairly clear … that there’s an actual lack of proof that forfeiture is an efficient technique for combating cash laundering,” Magonet mentioned. “These points are actually magnified and heightened with the executive forfeiture regime. As a result of there’s no choose overseeing the method until it’s disputed.”

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