Judicial Asset Recovery Conference: Judiciary must be “above par” in dealing with oil and gas sector issues – Chancellor
With the massive development Guyana is experiencing, largely because of its booming oil and gas sector, the Judiciary must be “above par” in dealing with issues and challenges related to the industry, acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards has asserted.
“It’s no secret that Guyana has experienced an economic boom or we’ve been on that trajectory. And with that, that development and the type and magnitude of such development is historic.
The spin-off oil and gas and its related industries, and the challenges and legal issues associated with such economic development are well known and the Judiciary of Guyana must meet those challenges legally and we must be above par in dealing with those issues,” she told a gathering of mostly judicial officers at the opening of Guyana’s Judicial Asset Recovery Conference on Monday.
The two-day conference is being held at the Marriott Hotel and will conclude today.
According to Justice Cummings-Edwards, the workshop is another means of building and enhancing judicial officers’ capacity, giving them the key strategies to combat the issues confronting them related to judicial asset recovery. She explained that among the topics that would be discussed are offences for which property can be forfeited and the burden of proof.
She said, “We were told growing up that crime does not pay and the proceeds of crime, the ill-gotten gains are only for a time. This is so because the State and law enforcement agencies will come after those elements who tried to get rich by criminal means and to get their assets. In simple terms then, asset recovery and civil forfeiture would be what we will be looking at today.”
And because asset forfeiture involves, to some extent, permanent deprivation of property by court proceedings, she explained that the Judiciary will have to be au fait with current legislation, and best practices, and to be able to adjudicate on those cases.
However, even before now, the Chancellor highlighted that the issue of asset forfeiture has been featured in Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act.
Recovery of assets after crime
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch was keen to note that asset recovery legislative frameworks are critical to taking the profit from crime. “While we understand the challenge of reform, we encourage counterparts to update existing legislation to give judicial officers the best possible framework through which to adjudicate these cases,” she said.
She expressed that the US hopes that the conference will be a step that leads to additional reform and ultimately, recovery of assets after a crime takes place while adding that the conference is well-timed as it comes in the midst of Guyana’s rapid economic transformation.
“We bring you together to not just train, but to connect you with other experts and to learn from you. I hope you share today the challenges that you face, solutions that you have developed, and new innovative approaches to consider. The discussion over the next two days — along with the practical exercises — is aimed at advancing capacity within the Judiciary of Guyana to further promote timely and reasoned adjudication on asset recovery matters,” she added.
Apart from the Chancellor and Ambassador Lynch, acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC; Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan; other Judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal; other Magistrates; Commissioners of Title; and Registrars were also in attendance.
This is the second conference of this kind.
In recognition of the increased collaboration between Guyana and the United States of America on security, rule of law, and countering organised crime, the National Centre for State Courts (NCSC) has partnered with the Judicial Education Institute of Guyana to host the conference.
The expert faculty included the Chief Justice of Belize, the Justice of Appeal from the Supreme Court of Jamaica, High Court Judges from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago, the Dean of the University of West Indies (UWI) Law Faculty, Director of Public Prosecutions from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines National Prosecution Service, and Kings Counsel from England and Wales.
The event aims to engage members of the Judiciary and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in the area of asset recovery, building knowledge, and sharing best practices in conviction-based and non-conviction-based asset recovery.
It will raise the level of asset recovery knowledge and best practices; encourage the professional exchange of skills, experiences, and challenges when dealing with asset recovery cases; and build confidence among members of the Judiciary who preside over asset recovery cases.
The experts will also address the issue of recovering virtual currencies, the relationship between civil forfeiture and the Constitution, and the importance of prosecutor and defence statements in confiscation matters.
Additionally, this conference seeks to provide an avenue for understanding trends, discussing difficult but relevant issues, and exploring new methods of solving problems to equip all members of the Judiciary with the necessary tools to adequately adjudicate on these matters.