So-called “unexplained wealth orders” are beginning to make their mark in Canada.

Writing in the Toronto Star, Martin Kenney opines on the use of “unexplained wealth orders” in Canada (specifically British Columbia, where they are part of a major new case brought by the province).

These new tools in the law enforcement arsenal, which have crossed the Atlantic from the UK, force an alleged perpetrator to explain the source of funds used to buy any asset in cases where there is a suspicion of criminal activity or corruption.

The B.C. government’s forfeiture lawsuit is lodged against a couple relating to their acquisition of a house, purchased outright for $1 million without a mortgage. The lawsuit claims neither had the lawful income to afford or maintain the property, now valued at $1.8 million, alleging the funds originated from a $200 million international ”pump-and-dump” stock fraud.

Writing in the Toronto Star, Martin comments:

“As a Canadian who runs an international law firm focused on multi-jurisdictional fraud matters, the issue of UWOs and how they are deployed is of significant interest.

“UWOs enable the targeting of criminal assets, disrupting the financial incentive to commit crime. They place the burden of proof upon an asset owner to prove the lawful origin of their wealth, making it easier for law enforcement to tackle sophisticated money-laundering schemes.

“Furthermore, they promote transparency in asset ownership and financial transactions, contributing to a cleaner economy, and in doing so contribute to public safety and security.

“They also encourage international co-operation against global financial crimes, making it harder for corrupt foreign officials or organized crime groups to launder money through Canadian assets (“snow washing”).

“In addition, UWOs can be used to convert seized assets into revenue for public expenditure. Most importantly to my mind, though, where assets can be directly linked to criminal activities, the seizure and forfeiture of assets can provide a form of restitution to victims.

“… In my view, like every other developed nation, Canada needs UWOs on its statute books.”

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