Drug convict loses appeal to keep property

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A man convicted on drugs offences who appealed to the Privy Council to be able to keep two properties apparently bought with the proceeds of crime has lost his case.

The London-based court this week dismissed Ahmed Williams’ appeal challenging the constitutionality of the civil forfeiture.

Williams had been convicted in May 2008 of possession of cocaine with intent to sell. He was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $100,000.

The Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) subsequently applied to seize two properties owned by Williams. The High Court made the civil forfeiture order in 2015.

Williams took his case to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal which dismissed it in 2017. Williams had claimed the forfeiture regime infringed several of his constitutional rights, including that it amounted to “cruel and inhuman punishment”.

On Monday, the Privy Council upheld the previous ruling, dismissing Williams’ final appeal.

The Council declared that the relevant statute – the Money Laundering Prevention Act – had been “enacted with an important legitimate aim, to try to ensure that persons who engage in money laundering activity do not profit from it”.

It added, “It is reasonable for the burden of proof to be placed on the defendant, who can be expected to know the source of his income and assets.”

The ruling was welcomed by ONDCP director Lieutenant Colonel Edward Croft who said it “buttresses” the organisation’s mission to “take the profit out of crime”.

“It is our mission to ensure that criminals do not benefit from and enjoy the proceeds of their illegal activities. The legal framework provided by the Money Laundering Prevention Act has now been shown to be an effective piece of legislation and capable of achieving this objective,” the ONDCP boss added.

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