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Carla Brown-Antoine

A first attempt to utilise legislation which allows for the seizure of property suspected to have been obtained through crime has failed at a preliminary stage.

Delivering a ruling, last week, High Court Judge Carla Brown-Antoine reversed a preliminary decision she granted in December, last year, under which a couple from St Helena were required to declare the source of their wealth or face forfeiture.

The couple were required to file their declarations within 28 days of Brown-Antoine’s initial order but their attorneys filed for it to be set aside, as provided under the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Act, due to insufficient evidence.

Brown-Antoine upheld the application and ordered the State to pay the couple’s legal costs for defending the action.

Guardian Media understands that the decision is expected to be appealed.

The legislation, passed in April, last year, introduced a criminal assets agency to recover and manage criminal property through forfeiture.

The law also allows the Customs and Excise Division, the Board of Inland Revenue and in the couple’s case, the police, to investigate matters and take their findings to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for further action, if necessary.

While the legislation was being debated in Parliament, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said that it was designed to aid in the fight against crime by taking away the profits derived from it.

The Opposition expressed reservations over the impact of the legislation on citizens but eventually voted along with Government MPs for it to be passed.

The couple was represented by Jagdeo Singh, Kiel Taklalsingh, and Karina Singh, while Gilbert Peterson, SC, Ravi Rajcoomar and Tiffany Ali represented the State.