Pubdate: Thu, 02 Dec 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Steve Lambert, Canadian Press
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


Manitoba Legislation Called Nation'S Toughest

WHAT has been called the toughest provincial anti-gang law in Canada
has cleared its final hurdle and is set to take effect within days.

The Manitoba government has worked out detailed regulations under its
Criminal Property Forfeiture Act -- a law that will strip suspected
gang members of their assets even if they have not been convicted of a

"We're looking to put the legislation into effect as early as next
week," Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh said yesterday.

"There were a number of forms that had to be developed. As well, there
are (now) procedures set out for the disposal of property."

The law will allow the seizure of homes, cars, cash and other assets
of any person as long as police can convince a judge that a suspect is
a member of a criminal organization. The onus will then be on the
suspected gang member to prove the assets were earned through a
legitimate income and not the proceeds of crime.

The government will be allowed to designate a sheriff's officer or any
other person to sell the seized property via a public auction or call
for tenders.

The money collected -- minus the expenses of the police force that
seized the assets, the government's costs and the costs of the person
conducting the sale -- is to go to legal aid or into a fund that helps
victims of crime.

People who want to buy a suspected gang member's assets may be asked
to put down a deposit. If the buyer can't come up with the rest of the
money in a reasonable time, the deposit is forfeited.

Both opposition parties argued the law will not stand up in court.
"There's always been this belief in Canadian justice that one is
innocent until proven guilty," said Liberal justice critic Kevin Lamoureux.

"I think that as a general rule, that's something that we should
probably be adhering to."

The Conservatives said the law may end up penalizing an innocent

"There's also a chance that the taxpayers of Manitoba would have to
compensate that individual for a wrong decision," said Tory justice
critic Gerald Hawranik.

But officials in Manitoba Justice have gone over the law with a
fine-tooth comb, said Mackintosh.
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