Warning by Fiji law expert to be vigilant over new wealth order
Fiji Law Society warns anyone could become targeted under new unexplained wealth order.
The head of the Fiji Law Society says people should be vigilant as anyone could be targeted under the new unexplained wealth order under the Proceeds to Crime Act.
Fiji's Financial Intelligence Unit is investigating two dozen cases under the new order and those who fail to prove where they gained their wealth could have it confiscated.
Previously authorities had to prove a person's wealth was linked to criminal activity before being deemed guilty.
The President of the Law Society, Dorsami Naidu told Beverley Tse about this concerns on the new order.
DORSAMI NAIDU: Any law can be abused and one hopes that once elections come into being next year that we'll have more checks and balance in regard to such legislation that's in place.
BEVERLEY TSE: Would you be concerned that the law would be used to target people who are enemies of the regime?
DN: That's possible, yes. That's possible. Anyone can be targeted because we may not have much accountability or that mechanism in place which would see to greater accountability.
BT: Do you think this law is fair?
DN: I don't think it's fair in that regard. You can't use it en block because where the property is from any criminal activity that I can understand. But who does it, how it's done, that's another thing. But I think since we are having elections next year it would have been more prudent to have waited till elections have taken place and a parliament was in place. But that's not for me to choose. The powers that be have chosen otherwise.
BT: Why do you think that?
DN: When you have debate on it. Everyone will have a say in the nature of the legislation, what mechanisms can be employed, what safeguards are there.
BT: From my understanding the previous law meant if someone was being investigated there had to be proof they were involved in some sort of illegal activity that led to them obtaining certain wealth that was unexplained. But in this case it's actually around the other way, that they have to prove they're innocent.
DN: I think that's wrong because there's no mechanism in place. They may use words like 'We have to prove it'. But I think the question of guilt should not be put on the individual until and unless the authorities are able to show illegality or criminality on the part of the individual. Then the burden may shift, but that's on very rare occasions.
Dorsami Naidu says people should be worried about a lack of transparency over the methods being used in the FIU's investigations.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: