Ontario Government Compensates Victims of Unlawful Activity



    More Than $600,000 Distributed Under Civil Forfeiture Law

    TORONTO, April 25 /CNW/ - Victims of fraud continue to be compensated
under Ontario's Civil Remedies Act, Attorney General Michael Bryant said today
as the McGuinty government marks National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.
    "Victim compensation must be part of any great justice system," said
Bryant. "We are taking money forfeited from the proceeds and instruments of
unlawful activity and using it to compensate the vulnerable people who were
victimized as a result of those illicit activities."
    Almost $600,000 was forfeited to the Crown as a result of a case, in
which individuals from across Canada were victims of a scheme that involved
using their locked-in retirement pensions as collateral for cash loans, if
they transferred the funds to the lender. They were also advised, falsely,
that there would be no tax consequences for the loan.
    The government returned that money, plus accrued interest, for a total of
$633,141, directly to the 39 victims of the unlawful activity.
    The Civil Remedies Act authorizes the Attorney General to ask civil
courts to freeze, seize and forfeit the proceeds and instruments of unlawful
activity to the Crown. Civil forfeiture focuses solely on the connection
between property and unlawful activity and is not dependent on any criminal
charges or convictions. The legislation allows the Crown to recover property
acquired through unlawful activity to prevent property from being used to
engage in further unlawful activities, and to compensate victims.
    To date, under the Civil Remedies Act, the Attorney General has
distributed a total of $965,320 in compensation for victims of unlawful
activity and $763,000 in grants to police services for programs to assist
victims and prevent unlawful activities that result in victimization.
    "This is just one example of our commitment to compensate victims and to
provide grants to help prevent unlawful activity that results in
victimization," said Bryant.

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
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                               CIVIL FORFEITURE
    

    The Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act (Civil
Remedies Act) enables the Attorney General to ask the court for a civil order
forfeiting the proceeds or instruments of unlawful activity to the Crown.
    A proceed is property or money acquired as a result of unlawful activity.
An instrument is property that is likely to be used to engage in unlawful
activity in the future. The law permits a civil court, at the request of the
Attorney General, to freeze, seize and forfeit to the Crown any type of
property that is determined to be a proceed or an instrument of unlawful
activity. Property includes all types of assets, such as real estate, cars and
cash. Unlawful activity is not limited to activities covered by the Criminal
Code. For example, it could include contraventions of other federal and
provincial laws.
    Under the Civil Remedies Act, the court can grant an interim order to
freeze property pending the outcome of the forfeiture proceeding. If
government lawyers can prove that the property in question is a proceed or an
instrument of unlawful activity, the court can issue orders forfeiting the
property to the Crown. The act then enables victims of the unlawful activity
that leads to forfeiture to submit a claim for compensation against the
forfeited property.
    The process for civil forfeiture under the Civil Remedies Act begins when
a designated institution, such as a police service or government ministry,
submits a case to the reviewing authority, an independent Crown counsel in the
Ministry of the Attorney General. That counsel decides whether the statutory
criteria in the Civil Remedies Act have been met. Once that is confirmed, the
case information is forwarded to the ministry's Civil Remedies for Illicit
Activities (CRIA) Office, which is responsible for enforcing the act.
    Civil forfeiture focuses solely on the connection between property and
unlawful activity, and is not dependant on any criminal charges or
convictions. The standard of proof required for civil forfeiture is the same
as it is in all civil actions - a balance of probabilities.
    Ontario's CRIA office is recognized nationally and internationally for
its precedent-setting work. CRIA has successfully argued for the forfeiture of
property on all of its 84 cases to date. Since November 2003, the province has
collected on forfeitures totalling $3.6 million. The province currently also
has $9.4 million in property frozen under the act, pending completion of civil
forfeiture proceedings.

    Victim Compensation

    Forfeited property is normally liquidated and deposited into a special
purpose account. The legislation enables direct victims of the unlawful
activity, municipal corporations and prescribed public bodies to submit a
claim for compensation or cost recovery against the forfeited property.
Remaining funds may be disbursed in the form of grants to assist victims or
prevent unlawful activity that results in victimization.
    As required by the legislation, a public notice directed to victims,
municipal corporations and public bodies is published for each case. The
notice can also be sent directly to individual victims if their addresses are
known.
    Independent adjudicators determine eligibility for and the amount of each
payment. No payments are made until all the claims filed by direct victims in
each case have been adjudicated.
    A total of $633,141 has been distributed to victims of unlawful activity
as a result of a case brought forward by the Financial Services Commission of
Ontario, in which individuals from across Canada were victims of a scheme that
involved using their locked-in retirement pensions as collateral for cash
loans, if they transferred the funds to the lender. They were also advised,
falsely, that there would be no tax consequences for the loan.
    The Financial Services Commission of Ontario investigated this scheme in
2001. The case was brought to CRIA in 2004, and $595,000 located in the bank
account of the fraudulent company was forfeited in May 2005. That money, plus
accrued interest, for a total of $633,141, was returned directly to 39 victims
of the unlawful activity in March 2007.
    Under the Civil Remedies Act, the government has, so far, distributed
approximately $1 million in compensation to direct victims of unlawful
activity, and $763,000 in grants to law enforcement agencies for initiatives
to assist victims of unlawful activity and prevent unlawful activities that
result in victimization.

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Greg Crone, Ministry of the Attorney General,
Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210

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