Jul 28, 2016 News
-Will be empowered to recover stolen assets hidden any part of the world
– Makes provisions for establishment of Recovery of State Assets fund
By Kiana Wilburg
After months of preparation, the draft legislation which will lead to the formal establishment of the
State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) is finally complete. Consultations on the State Asset Recovery Bill have been earmarked for August 11, next, at the Pegasus Hotel.
Head of SARU, Dr. Clive Thomas, said that he is extremely elated to have reached this stage. He said that a lot of work has been put into the process.
He explained that Bill introduces provisions to combat unlawful conduct and corrupt practices in relation to property and other assets owned by the State, or in which the State has an interest.
In this context, the SARU Head said that the Bill provides for the establishment of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) which has as its primary function, the civil recovery of State property obtained through the unlawful conduct of a public official or other person, or any benefit obtained in connection with that unlawful conduct, by way of civil proceedings taken in the High Court for a civil recovery order.
The Bill contains seven parts, one of which makes provision for the establishment of SARA and its Director as a corporation sole, the appointment of a Director, Deputy Director and staff of SARA, and the terms and conditions of their appointment.
It also states how SARA will be financed, through a budget approved by the National Assembly, and its transparency obligations by requiring the Director to provide a detailed annual plan, and annual report both of which must be laid before the National Assembly.
In addition, SARA staff is required to comply with the Code of Conduct prescribed in the Integrity Commission Act.
The draft Bill articulates that SARA’s functions include the investigation, tracing and identification of State property suspected to be the proceeds of unlawful conduct of a public official or other person, or any benefit, directly or indirectly, acquired in connection with that unlawful conduct, and to institute High Court proceedings for the civil recovery of that property.
Once the Bill is passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President, SARA will be enabled to seek the recovery of such property wherever in the world that property may be located. The Agency will also be required to raise public awareness on the dangers of corruption and other crime.
The Bill expressly states that mutual cooperation between the Director of Public Prosecutions and Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit is a requirement, and the Commissioner of Police must provide such assistance as is requested by the Director.
The Director may enter into binding memoranda of understanding with other Government or Public bodies, and is able to collaborate with any State organ, foreign government or international or regional organization, in the recovery of State property.
Furthermore, the Bill also provides for the establishment of a Recovery of State Assets fund, into which 25 percent of the value of recovered property will be credited, with the remaining 75 percent credited to the Consolidated Fund.
This Fund is intended to make the SARA partially self-funding. Dr. Thomas explained that the Bill allows for the Director to be authorized to use the funds to commence actions under the Act, to make certain payments e.g. to pay experts to assist him in carrying out SARA functions, to fund training and capacity building or to compensate victims who suffered loss as a result of unlawful conduct.
The Bill also sets out in detail, the five Orders available to the Director when undertaking a civil recovery investigation. One of these includes search and seizure warrants which enables an authorized person to enter and search the premises specified in the application for the warrant, and seize and retain any material found there. The Bill also provides for account monitoring orders which requires a specified financial institution to provide account information on a specified account for a specified period, up to 90 days in the manner and at, or by, the times specified in the order.
Written comments on the Bill may be submitted to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel at [email protected] or posted to the Attorney General’s Chambers at Lot 95 Carmichael Street, North Cummingsburg. The Draft Bill is also on the Attorney General’s website at http://legalaffairs.gov.gy/.
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