Civil Forfeiture of Criminal Property

Civil Forfeiture of Criminal Property

Legal Measures for Targeting the Proceeds of Crime

Edited by Simon N.M. Young

In this book, which is the first of its kind, leading experts examine the civil and criminal forfeiture systems in Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the fight against organized crime and international money laundering, there is a global trend for countries to enact forfeiture and confiscation laws that are applied through the civil process rather than the traditional criminal justice system. The authors gathered here analyze the appeal these civil forfeiture laws have for governments for their potential to disrupt criminal organizations and for their quantifiable benefits to the state. But without the usual safeguards of the criminal process, civil forfeiture laws are controversial, attracting constitutional challenges, particularly on human rights grounds.


Simon N.M. Young

Subjects: economics and finance, economic crime and corruption, law - academic, corruption and economic crime, criminal law and justice, finance and banking law, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights


Simon N.M. Young The expression ‘civil forfeiture of criminal property’ can evoke a number of different responses. First there is the common response of ‘what the hell is it?’. This is sometimes followed by the question, ‘does it have something to do with terrorism?’. It is not easy to answer the first question simply, and as for the second question civil forfeiture includes and goes beyond the forfeiture of property used to finance terrorism. Most countries which now have a regime of civil forfeiture had either adopted or decided to adopt the regime well before the tragic events of 11 September 2001. These regimes are a response to domestic and international organized crime generally. They primarily target the profits and proceeds of serious and organized criminal activities as a means to eliminate such activities. The aged and wise may wonder why we are still discussing forfeiture of property when ‘it was abolished many years ago and is no longer legitimate’. While it is true that common law jurisdictions abolished the old punishment of general forfeiture for committing treason or a felony, this does not mean that modern forfeiture laws are illegitimate.1 General forfeiture which deprived a traitor or felon of all of his personal property (and sometimes his real property as well) was clearly disproportionate punishment on the offender and his family members. Such punishment also denied victims the opportunity to obtain money damages from the wrongdoer. General forfeiture in today’s world is also inconsistent with the goals...