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ARGENTINA | 21-01-2019 19:28

Macri signs decree allowing courts to seize assets linked to corruption, drug-trafficking

The decree is one of a number of recent government announcements related to crime and safety.

President Mauricio Macri has signed a decree which will allow Argentina's courts to seize assets found to be connected to acts of corruption or drug trafficking.

The emergency DNU decree is one of a number of recent government moves to address crime and safety issues. Both issues are expected to play a key role during the 2019 election campaign.

Macri made the announcement on Monday at a press conference, where he was joined by two key long-serving ministers, Justice Minister Germán Garvano and Patricia Bullrich.

"It's clear we are all doing our very best to get this country moving forward. We cannot allow a few corrupt people to commit crimes at the expense of this commitment," the president said.

"The mafias and the corrupt have no limits. They are capable of anything. This is why, since day one of our government, we've been fighting to end [crime]," he said.

The decree includes provisions for the creation of a special Ombudsman's Office to monitor future asset seizures.

BROADER POWERS

Minister Bullrich, whose popularity and deployment on the frontline of national politics has prompted rumours she will run alongside Macri as his vice-presidential candidate, said she expected the Judiciary to deploy the broader powers to recover stolen or dirty assets. The minister has been the public face of the government's anti-crime agenda.

"We hope that the Judiciary will make fast and independent steps toward criminal justice in order to recover what has been stolen from all of us," Bullrich said.

The government this year authorised 300 Taser guns to be issued to federal agents and also announced it would lodge a bill with Congress to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 15.

For his part, Garavano said: "Progress will be made in the civil responsibility of creating regulations that are agile enough for prosecutors to ague, in civil and commercial courts, for the need to recover assets from the mafias."

The ministers gave details about a plan which will allow civil court judges to determine whether defendants in corruption or drug-trafficking cases can justify their assets.

"Together with the Justice Minister we calculated that we [the government] have decommissioned 23 million pesos in drugs and land. If we had had this rapid and efficient mechanism [like the one passed by decree], we could have done a lot more with that money," Bullrich added.

Courts will now be in a position to seize assets in cases dating back 15 years, the minister added.

The Judiciary "can go up to 15 years in history because [these crimes] have a statute of limitations of 15 years. There are a number of assets which were destroyed because time has passed and they ended up that way. [The decree] will allow [assets] to be returned (to the state) to benefit those who most need it," she said.

"Drug traffickers, corrupt people and human traffickers should be scared about this because they'll have everything taken from them. Honest people have nothing to worry about," Bullrich said.

-TIMES

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