Trinidad And Tobago's 'You Can't Afford That' Forfeiture Law Claims Its First Victims

from the government-is-just-another-word-for-the-people-telling-you-what-you-can-afford dept

Here in the United States, asset forfeiture is pretty straightforward. In civil asset forfeiture, the government decides it wants something you have and files the paperwork to take it. In criminal asset forfeiture, the government takes your stuff pre-trial to prevent you from mounting a decent defense and finalizes the transfer of wealth post-conviction.

In both cases, the government takes stuff before anything's been proven in court. Only in criminal asset forfeiture does the government have to do much work convincing a judge it should have your property instead of you.

Legalized theft in the United States is scary, abusive, and the target of much criticism. It's a one-sided process that favors the accusers.

But at least you still get to keep the clothes you're wearing, unlike in the Netherlands. Dutch police are willing to disrobe anyone they suspect can't afford (at least not with legally-obtained funds) the clothes on their backs, the watches on their wrists, and any other accoutrements cops think a person couldn't have purchased without ill-gotten gains.

Meanwhile, the UK government allows law enforcement to secure "unexplained wealth orders," which allows them to seize anything someone can't produce receipts for. To move forward with these orders, there has to be at least some articulable suspicion the wealth may have been derived from a serious criminal act. The downside is the power has also been granted to tax collection authorities, which turns less-serious crimes like owing back taxes into "serious" crimes since it's subject to the same legalized theft program. No convictions need to be secured before the government can start taking stuff away from people. And the burden of proof rests almost entirely on the person whose property is being taken.

It appears Trinidad and Tobago has instituted the same sort of government-enabled theft program. And it actually beat the Brits to it by a couple of months. The islands' "explain your wealth" law went into effect in April of this year, but it took until December for anyone to take it out for a test drive.

The law allows law enforcement to freeze/seize assets, utilizing either restriction or forfeiture orders. The process starts with the filing of a request by law enforcement or revenue officers. All the government needs to do is tell the court it suspects the wealth is unexplained. The burden of proof is on the accused.

Where the High Court "is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the total wealth of the respondent exceeds the value of his wealth that was lawfully obtained, it may make a Preliminary Unexplained Wealth Order, requiring the respondent to file a declaration and appear before the High Court to answer questions relative to his assets for the High Court to decide whether to make an Unexplained Wealth Order."

After this, a notice of the making of the Order shall be served on the respondent.

Here's who the government is going after with its first "unexplained wealth order."

A St Helena couple has 28 days to explain their wealth after a High Court judge granted the police an order under new legislation.

Justice Carla Brown-Antoine granted the order on Monday after finding the police had presented enough evidence to justify it.

The order was granted ex-parte.

Under the judge’s orders, the two are each to file a declaration under sections 58(1) and 61(1)of the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Act within 28 days, and are to appear in court on January 7.

There are few details on who this couple is or why they're suspected of having too much stuff. But it could be anybody, really. The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago says the law will be used to go after "bandits who wear gold chains and drive Mercedes Benz and BMWs." Looking for gold and imported cars casts a pretty wide net. There's really no downside for the government since citizens will have to do all the evidentiary heavy lifting.

Oh, and the AG tossed out this horseshit chestnut while arguing on behalf of giving law enforcement the power to strip people of their possessions without having to prove any connection to criminal activity:

If in­no­cent cit­i­zens have noth­ing to fear or hide, the Civ­il As­set Re­cov­ery Un­ex­plained Wealth Bill should not scare them.

This was the mes­sage At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi sent to the pop­u­la­tion in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, as he read out the 75-clause bill which seeks to cre­ate a civ­il as­set re­cov­ery and man­age­ment agency for the re­cov­ery of crim­i­nal prop­er­ty through re­stric­tions in deal­ing with civ­il as­sets re­stric­tion, for­fei­ture of crim­i­nal prop­er­ty and the man­age­ment of crim­i­nal prop­er­ty.

Yeah, but the government decides who's innocent. It makes the first judgment call when it requests an order. Then a judge decides whether or not those accused of having too much money can explain why they have the things they have. If the explanations aren't good enough, the government gets to keep the stuff it's seized and the question of innocence (in terms of criminal accusations) goes completely unaddressed.

The forfeiture system in the United States has plenty of perverse incentives. The one in place in Trinidad and Tobago is pretty much nothing but perverse incentives -- a simple way for the government to deprive people of their property with only the thinnest pretense of due process.

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Filed Under: asset forfeiture, explain your wealth, forfeiture, legalized theft, trinidad and tobago, you can't afford that


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 1:39am

    Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

    If in­no­cent cit­i­zens have noth­ing to fear or hide, the Civ­il As­set Re­cov­ery Un­ex­plained Wealth Bill should not scare them.

    Hey, great mindset, so, if you would just provide all of your medical records, full access to your computer and everything on it, phone records, tax records, travel history, financial records, and anything else that might come to mind to the public to show that you have 'nothing to hide', then that'd be great.

    After all, 'if you've done nothing wrong then you have nothing to hide', and you don't have things to hide do you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 3:50am

      Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

      I can definitely see blood in the streets eventually spilling when every citizen in unison shows up with their rakes and shovels and clubs and pickaxes waiving high in the air in town square.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 19 Dec 2019 @ 2:21am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        Ah, but unless they have receipts for those implements and can prove they didn't buy them with proceeds from a crime, the government will just confiscate them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:08am

      Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

      Hey, great mindset, so, if you would just provide all of your medical records, full access to your computer and everything on it, phone records, tax records, travel history, financial records, and anything else that might come to mind to the public to show that you have 'nothing to hide', then that'd be great.

      Correct. I DO have nothing to hide. The only people who need privacy are criminals and liars. One day privacy will not exist or there will be safeguards that prevent its abuse.

      Unexplained wealth is used by the IRS all the time, and it's legit: how can someone have wealth on which they haven't paid taxes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:30am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        'how can anyone have wealth on which they haven't paid taxes?'

        Back pay from compensation or inheritance up to a certain amout could certainly afford you a nice mercedes or bmw that would get these chislers' mouths watering.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:31am

        Like watching someone dig a pit-trap and then jump in it...

        The only people who need privacy are criminals and liars.

        Said the anonymous coward.

        So, which are you, criminal, liar or both?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 9:23am

          Re: Like watching someone dig a pit-trap and then jump in it...

          I can ENJOY privacy without NEEDING it.

          What is a threat to the liar or criminal is not a threat to me, so I do not concern myself with it. Why should I when I can be making money instead?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 9:51am

            Re: Re: Like watching someone dig a pit-trap and then jump in it

            That sounds remarkably like the excuse a criminal and/or liar would use, or a hypocrite that doesn't want to be bound by the very argument they'd just made. 'I don't need privacy, I'm just making use of it by refusing to take even the most basic steps to identify myself.'

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 10:38am

            Re: Re: Like watching someone dig a pit-trap and then jump in it

            So just a massive hypocrite then. How totally unoriginal since you’re about the 400th idiot to try the “privacy for me and not thee gambit.”

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Dec 2019 @ 3:20am

            Re: Re: Like watching someone dig a pit-trap and then jump in it

            "I can ENJOY privacy without NEEDING it. "

            Nope.

            It's very well documented that for most of humanity the loss of privacy is more harmful than mere incarceration.

            Seeing as we need a judge and jury to convict a person before we incarcerate them there really is no excuse to remove privacy from the innocent either.

            It's somehow ironic that you think you'd be better off making money than caring about your privacy given that what you advocate is for a society built on Soviet-style standards using classical communist dictatorship rules.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:46am

        I DO have nothing to hide.

        Then post your Social Security number here.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:33am

          Re:

          Post your ssn on this site? With these Bums? Are you raving looney?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 9:23am

          Re:

          Nothing to hide doesn't mean everything to reveal at this time. It would have to be done to everyone to be fair.

          The point is that IF this were to happen to everyone, I'd emerge relatively unscathed. Just like because I'm not a billionaire, I never flew to Epstein's island, never hung with Trump, and never acted like a horndog around the office like that(those) media guy(s).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 11:14am

            Nothing to hide doesn't mean everything to reveal at this time.

            You should feel free to reveal everything at this time if you truly have nothing to hide.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 11:39am

            Re: Re:

            Sounds as though you have been accused of something - no?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Rocky, 17 Dec 2019 @ 3:08pm

            Re: Re:

            I'm assuming that everyone you know and every acquaintance have the highest regards for you and they would never, ever (pinky swear) use your private information against you in some way? Because all of them are paragons of virtue, right?

            Your whole argument hinges on the premise that no-one would use your information for a bad purpose. If you believe that, you are fool.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Dec 2019 @ 3:25am

            Re: Re:

            "The point is that IF this were to happen to everyone, I'd emerge relatively unscathed."

            Wrong. Cardinal richelieu said it best about how you can condemn even the most honest man alive as long as you have six lines written by him and a name to link to them.

            Whether you are unscathed or not depends entirely on your naíve assumption that there will not be ANYONE who will find your very existence objectionable over what you would consider trivial details.

            Demonstrably any single post of yours from this thread is enough to have several of the more militant US groups of citizens put you solidly on the "remove" list.

            Democracy can not exist without privacy. Nor can humans.
            And if you believe, for a single second, that you could that merely means you've never spent a minutes worth of not having any.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:33am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        Correct. I DO have nothing to hide.

        O.K.list every meal, drink or other gift you have ever bought anyone, and all those you have received; along with who if anybody, you were in bed with in the last 5 years.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 2:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

          Having nothing to hide doesn't mean they have to answer anyone's questions.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 3:09pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

            Why not bro?

            After all he’s got “nothing to hide.”

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

            The innocent people have nothing to hide philosophy means the police can presume refusal to answer questions is an admission of guilt...in something.

            This the same bullshit that King George's redcoats did to us in the mid 18th century. It's why we have the Fifth Amendment in the bill of rights.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:45am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        The IRS actually doesn't care where the money came from, as long as you report the amount and pay your taxes on it. All you have to do is report the money as "Fifth Amendment income" or simply as "miscellaneous income", as per United States v. Wade and United States v. Brown.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 8:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

          per United States v. Wade

          ...held that a criminal defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to counsel at a lineup held after indictment?

          and United States v. Brown.

          The 1965 case saying a person can't be convicted of tax fraud based on hearsay?

          How is either case relevant?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 1:48pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

            Sorry, didn't realize there was a caption collision there, the full cite for the United States v. Wade I'm after is United States v. Wade, 585 F.2d 573 (5th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 928 (1979).

            Anyway, Wade bases its reasoning on United States v. Johnson, 577 F.2d 1304 (5th Cir. 1978), which in turn cites United States v. Sullivan, 274 U.S. 259 (1927). The latter case states, in part, that:

            In the decision that this was contrary to the Constitution, we are of opinion that the protection of the Fifth Amendment was pressed too far. If the form of return provided called for answers that the defendant was privileged from making, he could have raised the objection in the return, but could not on that account refuse to make any return at all. We are not called on to decide what, if anything, he might have withheld. Most of the items warranted no complaint. It would be an extreme, if not an extravagant, application of the Fifth Amendment to say that it authorized a man to refuse to state the amount of his income because it had been made in crime. But if the defendant desired to test that or any other point, he should have tested it in the return, so that it could be passed upon. He could not draw a conjurer's circle around the whole matter by his own declaration that to write any word upon the government blank would bring him into danger of the law.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 11:41am

          Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

          What did they get Capone on?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:58am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        "how can someone have wealth on which they haven't paid taxes"

        I don't know Donald ... why don't you tell me?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        James Burkhardt (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 10:14am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        how can someone have wealth on which they haven't paid taxes.

        Tax accounting Lesson. (US-based info)

        Generally speaking, Gifts are not taxable income to the recipient. A person can give gifts to other individuals of up to $14,000/person/year and it not be subject to the gift tax either.

        This is a way the rich reduce estate taxes by giving their children (and their spouses) $14,000/year each, non taxable, transferring wealth from one generation to the next.

        These gifts, so long as they are not in excess of $14,000/person/year, are not even necessarily reported to the IRS.Do that over 50 years, and a person would have $700,000 in non-taxed wealth transferred to them.

        But really, its that gift of a High-end laptop and an iPhone which show evidence of tax evasion. /s

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 10:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

          Bah, $700,000 to an individual, but if you give it to a couple you end up with $1,400,000.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 7:57pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

          Do that over 50 years, and a person would have $700,000 in non-taxed wealth transferred to them.

          Or $11.4 million, if it makes a 9% annual return during that time and they don't spend it. The gains would be taxable, in theory, but the rich can play games with cost bases, charitable donations, esoteric investments, etc.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 10:35am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        “The only people who need privacy are criminals and liars.”

        Hello Anonymous Coward, which one are you?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 12:58pm

        "I DO have nothing to hide."

        So we can assume, then, you are white, male, cisgendered, heterosexual and simultaneously Catholic, Protestant Evangelist, Anglican and three or four shades of Muslim, depending on what province you're in.

        We can also assume you're rich enough to retain a lawyer.

        Also that you never engage in sexual interests except with your legal spouse for reproductive purposes.

        Because if not, you will find yourself on the wrong side of the law. And they can indict a ham sandwich and assure you'll lose all your assets and serve no less than five years in a federal penitentiary. Because some law enforcement officer has a hunch you're a bad guy. They'll find out what later after they have access to all your records.

        If you're a billionaire, of course you get a free pass, but then criminal syndicates and rival industrialists might pose an even worse threat.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 8:39am

      Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

      "If you've done nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about when I send you to St. Peter at the gates of heaven."

      Apparently, the rich can't stand the peasants getting too comfortable. Can't wait until they decide that life is too good for us.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 11:43am

        Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

        Apparently they are sadists.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 11:58am

          Re: Re: Re: Ah the authoritarian/voyeur classics...

          They are and that's what I've been telling everyone for years.. They are masters of making you feel weak and petty, especially when they can get their friends to write more laws enslaving the masses.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:09am

    Of course with certain lawyers paying their hackers and cyber operatives in cash, I could see where they, and the "bagmen" might hate this type of law.

    Masnick seems to also dislike the law for his own reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:13am

      Re:

      Mike loves due process. You know, that thing you don't believe in because you think you'll never arbitrarily have your stuff confiscated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Call me Al, 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:18am

    Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

    I think the key point with the UK rule is it is about unexplained wealth. The onus is on the individual to explain it. So far all the cases are multimillion pound ones, including a woman who spent over £10m in Harrods and who's husband had a relatively menial job at a foreign bank and should not have had that kind of wealth for his wife to spend.

    We've a problem in the UK historically with money laundering, our banks have facilitated it as have others. Also UK property is a very attractive place for those with ill-gotten wealth to park their money. This was the government's attempt to catch up with that.

    I am not aware of it being used for anything less than £1m in value. It is not equivalent to the US rules.

    It also isn't about receipts for what you have bought, it is about proving the providence of the funds used to buy it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 5:35am

      Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

      I think think wealthiest of the One percenters have a lot of unexplained wealth. It would be fucking sweet to see this law enforced on some of that and given back to the people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:01am

        Re: Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

        Do you mean like the royal family? Good luck with that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 7:00am

          Re: Re: Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

          Is the author of the Panama papers still alive?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 18 Dec 2019 @ 5:48am

          Re: Re: Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

          Most of that is either land rental and income (Prince Charles is also the Duke of Cornwall. The products made from the farms he owns had their own brand (Duchy Oroginals) and were available for sale in the chain stores like Tesco. The brand "Duchy Originals" is now owned by high-end supermarket Waitrose) or gifts from foreign dignitaries.

          Other income is from the Civil List, which is funded by our taxes. It's basically their salary for working foreign dignitaries and keeping the public happy by visiting them in their towns, etc., or at special events. They also make money by shilling their various palaces, etc. (complete with gift shops), to tourists.

          The Royals do pay taxes.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 18 Dec 2019 @ 5:36am

        Re: Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

        That will never happen. The Tories will see to that. Why? Those people donate to the Tory party.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:47am

      Seems justified concern to me

      The onus is on the individual to explain it.

      Making the accused prove their innocence certainly sounds problematic to me. It would be one thing if the government had some actual evidence that money/property was the result of illegal actions, demonstrated that in court and then the accused could challenge the evidence, but if the government is able to foist the burden or proof on the accused then I could all too easily see someone that actually was innocent losing money/property because they simply didn't keep the relevant records, or because admitting to how they got something would require them to admit to something legal but embarrassing('Oh, this car? Yeah, I got it from a married [man/woman] I was sleeping with without their spouses' knowledge.')

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Seems justified concern to me

        This is just the government being assholes. Its incredible how much they hate the people of this country.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Caleb (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 7:08am

      Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

      When the US first instituted the federal income tax (Revenue Act of 1913) the lowest tier of taxed income was $3000 per year at 1% and the highest was 6% on $500,000 per year. The average annual salary in 1913 was $1296. Thus the federal income tax was only targeted at the wealthy (double or greater the average annual income). By 1918 the top rate had increased to 77% from 6%.

      What does the above have to do with unexplained wealth? Governments, once granted a new ability, will never fail to extend that ability to the maximum limit. An argument that this is only about wealthy sounds a lot like the arguments made for civil forfeiture in the US as part of the "War on Drugs". We will only seize those cars, houses, and bank accounts of drug runners... etc. Thirty years later the average amount seized in civil forfeiture is something like $3k and the average person so accosted is generally earning below the median (ie, unable to afford to mount a defense). Techdirt has written several articles on this in the past.

      I would be careful of believing that "this will never happen to me" because sooner or later, it will.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 9:08am

      Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

      We've a problem in the UK historically with money laundering

      There are many reasons for that, one of the big ones being that it's absurdly simple to form shell companies without providing any accurate information about owners, and often not even working contact information, combined with the global financial flows through London and the perceived legitimacy of UK companies. If you actually wanted to combat that, give your company register the authority to verify the accuracy of information provided to it and require it to actually do so. Harassing people for a couple million pounds isn't going to touch the 100 billion pounds worth of money laundering that flows through your Island every year.

      It is not equivalent to the US rules.

      It appears to be pretty much equivalent. That you have (so far) used it differently does not actually make it different.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 10:50am

      Re: Perhaps a tad over concerned about the UK one

      GIft taxes, as far as I can tell, operate differently in the UK from the US. However the burden for any gift taxes owed is assigned similarly in the UK, in that the recipient doesn't owe the taxes, the giver does.

      But while the onus is on the giver to report those gifts, it would appear the remedy for such a failure is to seize those gifts or the products thereof, and require the recipient to prove, while devoid of what may be important assets to, say, pay for a solicitor to assist in readying documentation and presenting your evidence to the court, to prove the tax-free nature of those assets. Seems a bit backward to me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:06am

    No Surprise

    Canada's had an income tax provision for decades that can require a person to explain their assets and lifestyle if they do not have enough declared income to cover their lifestyle. At least (AFAIK) it was limited to doing an asset valuation and calculating an imputed income - if you have these things and live this lifestyle, you must be making this much a year.

    It wasn't so much to catch drug dealers, as a way to catch types like home renovation contractors doing work under the table. Don't report enough income to justify that fancy truck, the mortgage, and groceries - "we think you made this much and we want taxes for this much income". It doesn't go as far as asset forfeiture unless the person fails to cough up the income tax.

    To my mind, the most important part of any asset forfeiture law is - follow the money. If the assets go into general revenue, the incentive is far less than if they are used, for example, to swell the local police budget or give pay bonuses - in that case, it's just theft.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:08am

    and regardless of whether correct or not, the ordinary people get caned yet massive companies and corporations pay less than a single person's tax and not a damn thing is done about it! that's the difference between being able to pay back handers and being unable to pay back handers!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 7:03am

    Impossible expectations, totally expected.

    I would like to see if anyone in the Trinidad and Tobago government has receipts for every cash expenditure they ever made. Even leaving out food and drink, do they have a receipt for the shirt they are wearing? How about that 12 year old watch. Oh, those shoes look expensive, how expensive were they? Can you prove that?

    Without the government having to prove their allegations to begin with, this is merely a witch hunt, I mean money hunt. The piece above doesn't say what the seized equity will be used for, but I bet they don't want an audit of the disbursement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 7:16am

    Well - there goes that tourism economy they were counting upon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 7:33am

    Just cut to the chase.

    Why don't cops just go door to door and demand people put their cash, jewelry and car keys in a bucket already? It will save a lot more time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 17 Dec 2019 @ 11:36am

      Re: Just cut to the chase.

      Too soon to do that now. You have to ease up to full authoritarian not jump to it immediately. By going slow you can erode protections and the will of people to listen to watchdogs. If the gov just jumped right in people will revolt in greater numbers and you will see lots of push back.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 12:06pm

      Re: Just cut to the chase.

      Put the "yellow dot" sticker on your window, maybe they'll leave you alone.. once the door to door takedowns start.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 8:24am

    The IRS in america have given up on getting more tax from most rich people ,
    theres loads of ways for high wealth citizens to avoid paying tax, they mostly audit people who earn less than 100k.
    theres lots of ways to avoid paying tax ,or reducing your tax bill,
    eg
    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/08/paradise-papers-schemes-avoid-tax-uk-property- deals-chiswick-park-blackstone
    Cab in ireland, crinimal assets bureau is usually used to seize assets from
    convicted criminals and drug dealers .
    i think it will be used in theory to go after people who have no obvious legal source for their income and the possessions like house,s ,expensive cars, boats , but it could be used against anyone .
    drug dealers and certain criminals do not tend to pay tax on the money they earn.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 17 Dec 2019 @ 9:10am

    "Don't steal. The government hates competition."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    omnipact (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 10:04am

    Interesting to see the UK mentioned here

    Several years ago I was in my City centre where the Police had an 'Exhibition': One was an expensive German car.
    I spoke to the police blokey and he explained that this was taken from a 'drug dealer'. 'How long did he get? What did he do?' were my immediate questions. 'Erm, this vehicle does not come from a convicted criminal." Wow.
    I asked him about innocent until proven guilty, and he could/would not explain...
    It seems the UK (or England at least) have been doing this for a while now

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 1:45pm

      Re: Interesting to see the UK mentioned here

      The UK is just as corrupt. Houses have been taken off people WITH PROOF OF OWNERSHIP and given to Saudi and Qatari officials in exchange for trade deals.

      There isn't a single country in the world now without a totally corrupt government that openly steals from its citizens, and dares them with threats of imprisonment to make so much as a squeak in complaint.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 18 Dec 2019 @ 5:50am

        Re: Re: Interesting to see the UK mentioned here

        Citation?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2019 @ 10:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: Interesting to see the UK mentioned here

          America knows for a fact that houses and property have been stolen by federal and local, state through emminent domain. One of the worst I heard was a family whose land surrounding a beautiful lake that had been in their family for many generations was taken by a municipality for purposes of a park they planned to develope, citing that property as beautiful as their's should be enjoyed by all, not just a single family. I believe it was in Wisconsin or Iowa. I can't recall, but this ain't communist Russia you fuckers.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Who Cares (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 11:17am

    It gets worse in the Netherlands

    19th or 20th November one of the people in congress (2de kamer) suggested to expand what they are currently doing in Rotterdam to the whole country.

    What is worse is that there is an asset forfeiture law. But that one actually requires a conviction to use instead of having the target prove that they are innocent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 1:30pm

    Long ago..

    I was having a conversation with a person in India, online.
    And he explained that the nation was so crocked that by the time a building was built, even Homes.. it cost 4-5 times as much..
    I pointed out to him that it was almost as bad here.
    He contested that..
    And I pointed out, that by the time the Corps get money for the building materials the price could double, the inspectors generally know nothing about Building and only the books they learned from, so any innovation tends to get removed for the basic construction, and COST to revamp everything, and we Pay $100+ to get inspections, plumbing, electrical, gas, and then the city/state come in and looks at thing...In some states you have to goto a Architect First and pay them to design it to Code,(more money) Then the land Taxes go up and up ONCE you build a NEW home, as land improvement(almost double), and this has little to do with a HOA that might have some ODD control over building in this area, and you have to redo everything, because you dont have the Proper roof style or Paint job.. And if anything happens the insurance company wont even cover 1/2 the value of your home. Or will disallow everything, say you have Water protection, but not wind, and declare that the Wind did the damage, not the Flood from Hurricane DITTO..
    Then for all of this we tax/regulate/and charge for all this under the law.
    the person shut up..
    (PS. there is a backdoor to this.. OWN the house, OWN the property, and BE the contractor.)(then you are considered responsible for all of it)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 1:42pm

    Remember this IS trinidad and tobago. Where the government will happily murder tourists and literally steal their suitcases and money.

    A dangerous risky shithole where having more than $50 on you constitutes an offence of "not giving it to the cops".

    A place where cops are allowed to shoot people and there's NO investigation, not even paperwork.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Dec 2019 @ 3:59pm

      Re:

      Sorry, little confused here, are you still talking about Trinidad/Tobago, or did you wander into talking about the US?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2019 @ 6:24pm

      Re:

      Remember this IS trinidad and tobago. Where the government will happily murder tourists and literally steal their suitcases and money.

      Sociopaths in the Wild: Film At 11.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    L Gray, 18 Dec 2019 @ 6:58am

    A bit late here. I am actually from Trinidad and Tobago. The thing is this; T&T (Trinidad and Tobago) isn't exactly the US or the UK.

    Corruption and gains from criminal activities is huge business. We are talking about drugs, gun running, human trafficking, prostitution etc. Our proximity to the Venezuela cost and the problems there are not helping either.

    I'll admit that the bill is a bit draconian, but less draconian than the original. The current government is on a trajectory to a more hardline stance and it isn't playing well with some parts of the society.
    That said, I am not sure how well this bill is going to go in terms of getting convictions. The current government and its agencies don't really have a good record of winning cases and quite often cases like these get discharged for lack of evidence.

    One thing you need to understand is that justice is very, very slow in T&T. Criminality is widespread and the murder rate is spiralling as you might note.
    The irony is that this legislation may backfire and it would be the politicians themselves that have to end up before the same courts to explain their unexplained wealth.
    General elections are in 2020 and its gonna be interesting, cheers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 2 Mar 2020 @ 11:21am

    It's the same in Canada. A police officer can seize any possessions or any amount of money they find on you, as most provinces have civil forfeiture laws now which allow for this. The officer only needs to "believe" in his heart of hearts (or claim to) that it is likely proceeds of crime. Note, he doesn't have to prove a thing. Only "believe" it.

    And it costs money to try and get those things back from the government, often more than the value of the items seized. And this doesn't qualify for legal aid. Naturally, they won't be exercising this sort of abuse with people who have the means to fight back and hire a lawyer. They will save that for the underprivileged, who have practically no rights in Canada anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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