B.C. is following the lead of other provinces to make it easier to seize cash and assets found by police with street drugs or other evidence of organized criminal activity, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says.
Farnworth introduced changes to civil forfeiture legislation Tuesday to reverse the onus from police to people found with large quantities of drugs and other assets.
Farnworth said his amendments have been vetted by police and constitutional lawyers, who have seen a series of challenges to B.C.’s efforts to declare real estate, vehicles and cash as proceeds of crime and seize them whether the owners are convicted or not.
“We know that organized crime is a real problem,” Farnworth told reporters at the B.C. legislature after introducing the amendments. “People are sick and tired of the idea that criminals can engage in this and get all these assets. They may face jail time, but those assets are still there.”
“For example, right now, if police were in your place and find a kilogram of fentanyl and $100,000 worth of cash in the safe, the onus is on the province, or is on the police to prove that that $100,000 is as a result of proceeds of crime,” Farnworth said.
“What these amendments will do is change the onus to place it on you to prove that that $100,000 is not criminal proceeds. So it will make it much easier to deal with cases where police come across significant amounts of drugs as well as large amounts of cash.”
B.C. is also focused on tracking of money and real estate, to get a better grip on money laundering.
“Some of the other amendments will make it easier to be able to trace financial transactions and the transfer of assets, particularly assets coming into the province from out of country,” Farnworth said. “Again, that will assist police in terms of issues such as money laundering and organized crime in general.”