Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DoJ Seeks to Broaden Patriot Act on Asset Freezes

Joseph Palazzolo writes in the WSJ:

After two losses in court, the Justice Department is pushing Congress to broaden a provision of the Patriot Act that allows U.S. judges to freeze assets linked to foreign crimes.

In recent cases in New York and Washington, D.C., federal judges ruled the Justice Department acted prematurely on requests by foreign governments for restraining orders against hundreds of millions of dollars in assets allegedly controlled by a Russian businessman and a Brazilian banker, both ensnared in criminal investigations in their native countries.

The cases have raised questions about the extent to which U.S. prosecutors and courts should rely on the legal processes of foreign governments, particularly in countries with unproven or uneven criminal justice systems. The issue has taken on more weight amid a global trend for greater international cooperation in law enforcement, spurred in large part by the U.S.

The courts ruled the department may seek to have assets frozen based on a judgment from a foreign court, but not on allegations of violations of foreign law or temporary orders by foreign courts.

That reading of the law, prosecutors argued in pleadings, could hamper "significant national interests" by undermining the Justice Department's ability to assist foreign governments during—rather than after—criminal investigations.

More here.


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