NASSAU, Bahamas: The Bahamas and Canada have signed an Asset Sharing Agreement formalizing an arrangement to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
“This agreement with Canada is symbolic of the excellent relationship that exists between our two countries and we look forward to continued collaboration in these and other matters,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs, Brent Symonette.
In March 1990, both governments entered into the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty. This treaty facilitates the gathering of evidence and intelligence in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. It also enhances the capabilities in the confiscation of the proceeds of crime.
“Mutual legal assistance treaties are concluded between two countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce criminal laws and confiscate the ill-gotten gains of criminal activity,” Symonette said. “Notwithstanding the excellent co-operation that already exists between the Bahamas and Canada with regard to sharing such assets even in the absence of a formal agreement, in 2001 our governments commenced negotiations on an asset sharing agreement to formalize the arrangement.”
The agreement was signed to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement in both countries in the investigation, prosecution and suppression of crime through the tracing, freezing, seizure and forfeiture or confiscation of assets related to criminal activity and the creation of a framework for sharing the proceeds and disposition of such assets.
“Despite our limited resources, the Bahamas government remains committed to fighting the war against drugs and other criminal activities and prosecuting those criminals that transcend international borders,” Symonette said. “Co-operation between our governments in joint criminal investigations such as narcotics trafficking and money laundering envisaged by the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty has been mutually beneficial to both governments.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs said although the Bahamas recognizes that confiscated assets are beneficial to improving its international crime fighting efforts through the improvement of infrastructure, manpower and other projects, confiscating the profits of criminal activities is also important as a deterrent to further illicit activities.
“In this regard, we are also pursuing negotiations with the United States to formalize existing co-operation into an asset sharing agreement,” he said.
Canada’s High Commissioner to the Bahamas, Denis Kingsley, noted that the Bahamas and Canada have enjoyed a longstanding relationship.
“We continue to work constructively with the Bahamian government in areas such as trade and finance, education and security,” he said.
Kingsley said he was pleased to have concluded the asset sharing agreement, “which is another example of the close co-operation between our countries and the work that we are trying to do together which is trying to fight the drugs and crimes that are international”.
The agreement also provides for the sharing of seized funds when they are confiscated or forfeited as a result of shared criminal investigations.