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Some of the money seized by police during the recent raid on the DSS operations in La Horquetta.

A newly formed civil society group called the Criminal Justice Action Committee (CJAC) made up of former law enforcement professionals, attorneys at law and a criminologist is calling for the various investigations into the DSS affair to be taken over by an independent special investigator and/or the Police Complaints Authority, as it believes the Police Service’s investigative authority may be compromised in the eyes of the public by the embroglio involving the recent raid and seizure of millions in cash at a La Horquetta residence.

In a media release issued on Sunday, the committee stated that the seizure of the monies “appears initially to be suspicious mostly due to the quantum and the alleged nature of the operation as an ‘investment’ however proper evidence gathering and investigations are an integral part of an effective criminal justice system.”

It added that, furthermore, as it stands, the laws involving seizure of monies pending investigation only cater for specific scheduled criminal acts under the Proceeds of Crime Act and whilst the matter of money laundering has recently been the subject of new several legislative measures, “it is unclear whether the Police have authority to act under the Civil Asset Recovery Act.”

The committee explained that whilst there are several dimensions to this complex matter of concern, the unfortunate reality is that given the way the scenario has unfolded there are now parallel investigations including the disciplinary actions against officers based on allegations of impropriety, misconduct and active participation in criminal activity.

It also stated that the legitimacy of Police action in any matter involves the belief that those actions are morally justified and appropriate to the circumstances. “Procedural justice therefore not only must be done but ought to be seen to be done to attain greater legitimacy and confidence in the Criminal Justice System.”

The committee’s aim is to be a “watchdog over abuses, shortcomings, lack of transparency and inefficiency in the system and advocate for reforms to meet 21st century criminal justice challenges.”

“The Criminal Justice Action Committee observes that the DSS matter has become so embroiled in public controversy that to be effectively overseen by the same players who are actively involved may be counter-productive and taint all investigations,” the release said.

“Although sensitive matters under investigation are now also routinely played out in the media across the world, it still ought to be done in a manner which maintains the trust and confidence of the system,” it added.

The committee noted that unfortunately, the investigations have been disbursed in a way that there is likely to be interdepartmental competition for evidence and yet intermingling of information being gathered for the various criminal and disciplinary issues, “This is less than ideal and inefficient. There is also a media battle for who controls the narrative and public opinion of this matter. This is fueled by the multi-departmental involvement of the local Police Officers at La Horquetta, the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Financial Investigations Bureau, Professional Standards Bureau, TTDF and the Commissioner himself, who admitted to commanding the operation.”

“We believe it is in the interest of the integrity of all these parallel investigations that there be a well equipped, competent and trustworthy investigatory arm of state such as the FBI in our national security landscape. Such a body would go beyond the PCA’s current remit and be able to intervene and take over an investigation such as this. The existence of such a body would at an early stage preclude the involvement of those who may seek to cover their actions, as many times officers are still involved indirectly, able to mishandle evidence or influence the outcomes,” the committee said.