Asset forfeiture – or theft?

The issue of asset forfeiture has divided people for some time.  On one side of the debate we have people like this American blogger, who think that asset forfeiture is akin to theft.  In fact, he calls it “the second most reprehensible thing that government does, after hurting poor people to benefit rich people”.  And on the other side (surely you saw this coming) we have people like me.

I have devoted much of my working life and an unhealthy proportion of my thinking time to financial criminals.  I do sympathise with the heart-rending examples often cited by anti-forfeiturists, whereby a totally innocent single, disabled mother of ten has all of her savings seized simply because she has the misfortune to share the name of a suspected criminal, and so has to sell six of those children into prostitution and eat the rest to survive.  But I am of the opinion that we have to apply the test of “the greater good”.  And I believe that giving law enforcement authorities the power (tempered by the courts) to halt money in its tracks while they take a closer look at it does serve the greater good.  Use of the financial system is not a right, but a privilege, and it is correct that any use of it should be overseen and, if necessary, stopped for inspection.

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