Forfeiture – the precondition for successful fight against crime

Photo: pxhere.com

Owing to the fact that the fundamental or main motive for committing serious crimes is getting gain, either indirectly or directly (i.e. crimes against the property, crimes against the office, against the public finances or payment transactions, the customs crimes and other crimes, especially the ones with the attributes of organized crime), the only fitting action against the perpetrators of these crimes and means to demotivate the them to perpetrate such crimes, in the first place, is the act of forfeiting property and the material yields in an efficient manner.

 

Owing to the fact that the fundamental or main motive for committing serious crimes is getting gain, either indirectly or directly (i.e. crimes against the property, crimes against the office, against the public finances or payment transactions, the customs crimes and other crimes, especially the ones with the attributes of organized crime), the only fitting action against the perpetrators of these crimes and means to demotivate the them to perpetrate such crimes, in the first place, is the act of forfeiting property and the material yields in an efficient manner.

 

Author: Drilon Saliu

 

This practice will most certainly create the sentiment that crime is unviable, since the gain as a motive for committing crimes shall be suppressed. Therefore, this is a preventive measure which also defends system’s values so the unlawful can’t become lawful.

 

FORFEITURE OF THE ILLEGALLY OBTAINED GAINS BY THE POLITICIANS

 

The heated question in the Macedonian society is whether the illegally obtained property of the politicians who shall be proven to have committed crimes for illegal gain in assets will be forfeited? Or else, although they might be punished for committing crimes, by not divesting their ill-gained property, after they have served their sentences, will they be able to make full use of their loot and, in a way, maintain their position further on? In order to prevent this from happening, the first measure would be freezing their property during the court proceedings and thereby hindering them to flee. The next thing is full forfeiture of the illegally obtained property, if there is a clear verdict of crime committed and power abused.

In this regard, Transparency International – Macedonia’s president, Slagjana Taseva, believes that it’s important to separate the money from the crime, so the politicians won’t be able to spread their criminal activities and to practice corruption. According to Taseva, corruption provides criminals with protection and control over the entire system, even governments.

With regard to this, Taseva says that the forfeiture of property would introduce demotivation and decrease crime and corruption possibilities:

As a measure, the forfeiture is highly important, both for demotivating and decreasing the crime and corruption possibilities as well as for correcting the conduct of individuals, who shall know that serving several years in prison will result in poverty. Today, even if they serve their time, afterwards they can unimpededly use what they have “earned”.

The former director of the Agency for Prevention of Money Laundering and president of Zelena Lupa Association Vane Cvetanov, thinks that the forfeiture would play an important role in the corruption reduction:

Let’s take a look from this perspective: What motivates a certain politician to opt for criminal activities related to corruption? Of course, gaining enormous property and capital, which is impossible if there is only a salary as income – not even in 100 years! But what’s the main motive for many politicians to think alike? The low level of forfeited property of politicians…

If we start identifying the illegally obtained capital during the criminal proceedings and serious amounts of capital are  forfeited (if we are talking about crimes worth billions of euros, let’s come to a situation where at least a total of one billion has been forfeited), then we would have caused a double effect. First, the politicians would fear of committing crimes in the future. Second, the result shall be restoring  trust in the rule of law and the judiciary in Macedonia.

Cvetanov says that that there is no actual progress in this segment so far and, as he puts it, the problem lies in the insufficient provisions of the system for establishing responsibility and, last but not lest, the impunity of the judges:

The former Council for Verification of Facts accepted 28 out of 50 initiatives for responsibility of judges submitted by Zelena Lupa and forwarded them to the Judicial Council. The international reports used the term state capture to describe us and unfortunately there haven’t been any major developments in the meantime.

THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA AND THE NGOs IN FORFEITURE OF PROPERTY

According to Cvetanov, the media play a rather small part in this process. He believes that there aren’t any tangible improvements regarding the position of the media in this regard since, as he puts it, donors of the media avoid such hot topics:

 

I myself don’t know of a donor that would fund such project. Therefore, we will continue establishing facts and hoping that someday we’ll have judges with consciousness and awareness. But this doesn’t go for all judges. This goes for 10% of the judges, but because of their conduct, the level of trust in all judges is still very low…

Taking into account the past court proceedings and the fact that the judiciary is not functioning in this segment, especially when it comes to the forfeiture of property and benefit in assets gained by politicians and the public and functionaries and other high position office holders, the media and the NGOs are supposed to strengthen the capacities for perception and identification of perpetrators of such crimes, especially in regard of the organized crime and corruption. All of this in order to incent all subjects in the system (bodies competent for detection and reporting of crimes, the state prosecution, courts) to do their professional activities adequately and opportunely.

To perform their function, it is indispensable for the media to show boldness when informing objectively and educating the public about the crime situation, thus publicly pressuring the competent bodies to tackle crime efficiently and divest the illegally obtained property. This is important so crime won’t be a profitable category that feeds the political power and influence in society, but instead harshly condemned by the public. Therefore, through all the elements of action, the forfeiture in the circles of the judiciary and even further, when it comes to politicians, should not exist only in theory, but it should be present in real life too.


This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.