Friday, March 23, 2007

Macedonian government to establish agency handling property confiscations

As part of its effort to fight crime and corruption, the Macedonian government says it is setting up a special agency to manage illegal property that has been confiscated. Funds acquired from the seizure of assets can then be invested in social programmes, police and army reforms.

The government is working to define the precise legal framework for the measures, which it says are provided for by penal code amendments passed in 2003. The amendments introduce property confiscation as an authorised strategy in tackling corruption and crime. Until now, however, this has only been implemented on one occasion -- in the trial of Lambe Arnaudov, the former manager of Elektrostopanstvo na Makedonija. Several vehicles were confiscated from Blif, a company connected to the case.

According to the Justice Ministry, legal provisions allowing confiscation of property acquired via crime and corruption have so far been impossible to enforce, due to the lack of an authority that would manage such property. This is the reason for setting up an agency, it says.

Slagjana Taseva, former president of the Macedonian Anti-Corruption Commission, says, "Provisions of the Penalty Code and other legislation should be made operational and systemised. This is about a measure of confiscation and not sanction. And this means that the measure may be issued without a court ruling."

According to Taseva, co-operation with institutions in other countries in the confiscation of property acquired through organised crime should also be specified.

Former Interior Minister and current MP Pavle Trajanov says many countries have special agencies tackling organised crime, and part of their responsibility is to uncover property acquired illegally.

"After such property is discovered, it is frozen until a court process provides evidence whether the property has or has not been acquired legally. If a property is proven to have been acquired illegally, it is confiscated. If it was acquired legally, it is returned to the owner," Trajanov says.

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