RIGHT OF CENTRE: Crime type not taken seriously
When we raise the issue of crime our minds go to violent crime or property invasions. White collar crime is seldom high on the agenda.
This may be true for two reasons: first, white collar crime is usually seen as victimless, which is a most unfortunate way of thinking, and secondly, mainstream society is not used to, nor comfortable with seeing many of the people associated with such crimes as criminals.
The low profile that white collar crime enjoys raises the question of whether it is taken seriously and receives the attention it deserves.
It seems safe to say that it definitely is not taken too seriously by the man on the Bathsheba bus, for it usually seems to be no business of his, but it would be disingenuous to say the same about those persons whose job it is to combat it.
The Royal Barbados Police Force has established a Fraud Squad and a Financial Investigations Unit to pay exclusive attention to crimes of this nature. Members of these units normally have a strong investigations background and are usually specially trained for the peculiarities of their job.
Government has also established a Financial Intelligence Unit which is specially connected and singularly equipped to tackle money laundering and its associated activities.
Further light is shed on our approach to white collar crime by a careful examination of the legislative tools that are available to deal with it by the relevant authorities. There are several pieces of legislation that address acquisitive crimes, but the two principal pieces of legislation that
come into the equation to answer the question posed here, are the Proceeds Of Crime Act, Cap. 143, and the Money Laundering And Financing Of Terrorism (Prevention And Control) Act, 2011-23.
It is my considered opinion that in these acts, the legislators have provided the executive with effective tools to tackle certain forms of crime. However, they also reveal a social bias that runs through our community, even if it is not politically correct to raise it in public discussion.
The effectiveness of these laws is in their ability to follow the proceeds of crime and recover them.
The long title of that Proceeds of Crime Act describes it as “an act to provide for the forfeiture or confiscation of the proceeds of certain crimes and for connected or related matters”. This is self-explanatory.
Unfortunately, these powers are constrained so as to have no application to white collar criminals.
The far-reaching powers of this act may be used only in relation to drug offences and terrorism offences, which begs the question – why? Are we to understand that only drug dealers are to be deprived of the proceeds of their crimes? It is difficult not to see a social red flag in this decision.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that section 65 of the act gives the attorney-general the authority to expand the offences to which the act may apply.
The Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention and Control) Act is another potential defence to white collar crime. But is it?
Section 3 of that act states that it has three purposes: to detect and prevent money laundering, protect persons whose businesses may be vulnerable to abuse by persons who pursue this crime, and maintain the good reputation of Barbados.
White collar crimes may predicate offences for money laundering, but the paucity of money laundering charges before the courts tells its own story.