On the eve of the second reading of the State Asset Recovery Bill in the National Assembly tomorrow, Attorney General, Senior Counsel Basil Williams, is lobbying for support of the modern piece of legislation that seeks to address corruption.
But despite the assurances of safeguards, Williams said the government was not prepared to default on its responsibility. He said stolen state property must be recovered.
Williams hosted a press conference at his office on Wednesday along with Dr Clive Thomas, Head of SARA, Brian Horne, Director of SARA, and Retemyer Aubrey, Chief Executive Office of SARA to address the criticisms of the Bill.
The Attorney General used the opportunity to quell concerns surrounding the intent of the Bill and explained that it would give SARU officials the powers to confiscate property believed to have been stolen from the state, without a criminal conviction.
“There is nothing criminal about the Bill, no one will be charged or prosecuted. It is intended to act strictly against property, state property that was obtained illegally,” the AG assured.
Williams further explained that the process for criminal charges requires the intervention of the High Court.
“The Court is the final determiner and appeals are allowed,” he added as he reiterated that there were safeguards for persons who feel they are being wrongfully targeted.
Dr. Thomas said as soon as the Bill is passed, the State Asset Recovery Agency will be duty bound to ensure that stolen state assets are recovered.
The Agency intends to use the findings of the several forensic audits that were done by the government in this process.
Dr. Thomas stated unequivocally that no one should feel they have a constitutional right to stolen property.
He said the Bill is modern and supported by the World Bank and also reminded that the Bill stems from the support that the former PPP Government had given back in 2005 to bring into force the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
The Bill will be read for the Second time in the House tomorrow where the government and opposition will debate.
The Bill is likely to be passed by the government, using its one seat majority.
But SARA says it is cognizant that the Bill can be challenged in Court. To this end, Dr. Thomas noted that Courts have usually support these type of legislation. (By Kurt Campbell)