Posted: Sunday, May 21, 2023. 2:15 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Civil Asset Recovery and Unexplained Wealth Bill is intended to be a step forward in combating corruption among persons in authority by subjecting them to an examination of means and assets before the High Court by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
In supporting the bill, Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow told reporters that he hoped it would not be used as a stick over the back of the United Democratic Party while reiterating that entering politics is about service to country, not self: “No politician should come into politics to become wealthy. You come into politics to advocate on behalf of the people that elected you to implement policies and to serve. It should be all about public administration. It shouldn’t be about wealth. So, I have absolutely no difficulty with this bill. I hope that it is retroactive. I hope that we can look, since the PUP always likes to look backwards, I hope that we can go beyond thirteen years and so that it can be a bipartisan bill and not a political bill that seeks to go after politicians in the opposition but all politicians that cannot explain their source of wealth and assets that they have amassed since becoming elected members of the House.” He added that teeth in the form of enforcement is needed.
Prime Minister John Briceño detailed how the process will work while underscoring the protection of legitimately wealthy persons as opposed to the nouveau riche, like drug lords: “The Civil Recovery Authority will need to obtain a preliminary unexplained Wealth Order requiring an individual to file a declaration of wealth and appear before the high court to answer questions. If the individual provides misleading information, it may amount to an offense. What is important here is that we want to have the FIU have the ability to be able to go after unexplained wealth and assets that were illegally taken. But at the same time, we have to ensure we protect the rights of the individual because as I said in this country, we live by the principle that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But we are also pointing out that that individual also has to come clean, to provide evidence how he or she or the company acquired that asset or who that wealth is in his or her possession. We also know we have all of these drug people, drug lords within the country and they don’t work but are driving these fancy vehicles. This will give us the ability to pull them in and explain how they have their wealth, what work they do.”
On a related matter in the area of political reform, the Opposition Leader signaled his support for political parties being registered as non-profit organizations, which were excluded in the recently passed non-profit organizations act: “I have no difficulty examining that possibility of us being registered entities and being included in the Bill. It is something that we have to have a discussion as a party [about] and something that we should be discussing with the wider public; we have constitutional reform going on right now…”
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