Forfeited funds can finance programs and activities meant to enhance public safety
The Saskatchewan government has introduced the Seizure of Criminal Property Amendment Act, 2021, which aims to offer the province new tools to fight money laundering and to go after the proceeds of crime.
The contemplated changes to the Seizure of Criminal Property Act, 2009 seek to improve the provincial government’s ability to pursue assets that have been involved in criminal activities such as money laundering.
“With this legislation we are sending a clear message to criminals in our province - crime does not pay in Saskatchewan,” said Gordon Wyant, Saskatchewan’s justice minister and attorney general, in a news release.
The proposed legislation will enable those handling Saskatchewan’s Civil Forfeiture Program to perform preliminary investigations about assets suspected to be involved in money laundering and to collect information from financial institutions regarding property and accounts suspected to be used for or resulting from unlawful activity.
The Civil Forfeiture Program allows for the proceeds or instruments of unlawful activity to be forfeited and deposited into the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund, which can be used to finance police operations, victims services and community programs and activities meant to enhance public safety.
The first reading of the legislation occurred on Nov. 2. Proposed new sections seek to do the following:
- to allow the director of Saskatchewan’s Civil Forfeiture Program to settle with the respondent a dispute regarding an administrative forfeiture;
- to establish a presumption that certain property is an instrument or proceeds of unlawful activity if it is subject to a preliminary disclosure order and if the respondent or defendant has failed or has refused to give the necessary information;
- to make it an offence for a financial institution or for a person to fail to disclose information, or to disclose false or misleading information in contravention of the legislation;
- to clarify that the program director is deemed to have an interest in certain property, if an interest has been registered against the property pursuant to the legislation;
- to require the program director to receive notice of any other proceedings respecting that property.
A proposed new subsection aims to give express authority to the program director to require financial institutions to disclose certain information.
Another contemplated part will add provisions regarding preliminary preservation orders and preliminary disclosure orders, including a subsection granting the director the ability, before starting forfeiture proceedings, to apply to the court for an order restraining the property’s disposition or respecting the property’s possession, delivery, safekeeping, preservation or management.