Friday, March 26, 2010
New law targets organized crime
A law that targets businesses used as fronts for organized crime has been a bust since it came into effect seven years ago, the province admits.
But Attorney General Andrew Swan said an amendment he introduced Thursday in the legislature should change that.
The Civil Remedies Against Organized Crime Act was designed to give the province the ability to choke off the economic lifelines of crime in Manitoba.
Under the law, which took effect Dec. 12, 2002, a court can cancel or withhold provincial liquor licences or business permits if it is satisfied the owners or managers are members of a criminal organization. If the court found that a business is knowingly being used for an unlawful purpose, it could issue an order to cease operations and liquidate and dissolve it.
Swan said he doesn't believe the law has ever been used. As it is now written, it places the onus on police chiefs to initiate a court action against a suspect business, but they haven't been doing that.
"The advice that we've received is that they (police chiefs) prefer to focus their attention on investigating crime," Swan said. Even though police see value in the law, he said, "when they had to look at all the different things they had to do, they preferred to make their priorities elsewhere."
So the province introduced Bill 13 on Thursday. If passed, the job of applying to the Court of Queen's Bench for orders against suspect business owners will go to the director of the Justice Department's recently established criminal property forfeiture unit.
The unit already enforces another law that allows the courts to seize proceeds of crime and the property bought from those proceeds. Claims involving cash, vehicles and houses under the Criminal Property Forfeiture Act are currently valued at $6.6 million.
Swan said he expects the civil remedies legislation to be equally successful once it's amended.
"If information comes to the (forfeiture unit) director, he can take steps to knock the feet out from under from people involved with organized crime," he said.
Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen was skeptical, however.
"It doesn't do anything substantive to help in the fight against organized crime or to improve resources," he said. "It's more NDP window dressing announcements."
I kind of agree with Hugh McFadyen in that the law has good intentions, but organized criminals are very organized (obviously) and are good at what they do, so I don't see this law changing a whole lot in reducing organized crime.