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Judges urged to get tougher on financial crimes

Published:Friday | March 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Dr Omar Davies (left) and Audley Shaw see eye to eye on the need for the judiciary to back up the spirit of the law in judgments on financial crimes. - File

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

AT LEAST two parliamentarians have expressed a desire for the judiciary to be more au fait with the intentions of legislation, especially those dealing with financial crimes.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw and his predecessor, Dr Omar Davies, say court judgments sometimes do not fulfil the desires of the legislation.

"It is one thing to seek to move our investigative capabilities to a more sophisticated level, but it is imperative that, at the same time, we seek to educate the judiciary of the full implications of financial crimes," Davies said in Parliament on Tuesday.

The House of Representatives was debating an act establishing the Financial Investigations Division (FID) as a department of government. The act was passed with 28 amendments.

Said Davies: "There are instances where decisions have been taken, rulings have been made which, in a sense, defeat the whole purpose of years of close scrutiny and investigation."

He told Parliament that the FID act was a necessary platform in the fight against financial crimes, but stressed that "it is imperative that there is a fuller understanding of the potential negative effects of financial crimes on the society and on the economy".

Make crime unattractive

He said that there was a compa-nion set of activities that must be embarked on.

"I don't know if it will mean special courts or special members of the judiciary who are trained in these matters but there is that need to complement the work that is being done here," said the former finance minister.

In supporting Davies, Shaw said the act was crucial, and that the judiciary should hand down sentences that will make financialcrimes unattractive.

"I agree with the former minister. We know that the judiciary itself is an independent estate. The suggestion that the judiciary should be properly educated is a worthy one," Shaw said.

The finance minister said there was also a need for the judiciary to pay attention to tax avoidance and evasion.

"Oftentimes, there are questions that we have to ask as to whether the judiciary is demonstrating a sufficient understanding of the need to preserve our tax laws, and to send the message to would-be miscreants and avoiders and evaders that (there is) a tax law in place that should be respected," Shaw said.

The act allowing for the establishment of the FID as a department of government gives it powers to investigate offences involving fraud, dishonest money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.