Dec. 21, 2003 – As part of the U.S. Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture Program, the Police Department is to receive about $250,000 that had initially been withheld because police authorities earlier couldn't account for the use of such funds received in the 1990s.
According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the federal Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section had withheld about $280,000 from the Police Department because police officials had been unable to show that such money received from 1991 to 1997 had been used for law-enforcement purposes. As a result, the department had been disqualified from receiving money under the federal program.
"There was no wrongdoing implicit in VIPD's inability to account for the use of the asset forfeiture money. It was simply a problem of accounting," the release stated.
The program allows for the federal government to seize money and property derived from or used in certain types of criminal activity, such as drug distribution, money laundering and fraud, U.S. Attorney David Nissman said.
When a local law-enforcement agency participates in an investigation resulting in such a seizure, "it may be entitled to an equitable share" of the forfeited property or the proceeds from the sale thereof "if it agrees to use the property or proceeds for law-enforcement purposes," Nissman said.
On Oct. 24, the release said, federal authorities decided to release all but $30,000 of the previously withheld money to the Police Department "because of demonstrated urgent law-enforcement needs in the Virgin Islands." In doing so, the Justice Department recommended that police use some of the released money to contract a Certified Public Accountant "to ensure that all asset-forfeiture money received in the future would be used in a proper fashion."
There have been many more seizures of property, the release stated, and with the Police Department's eligibility for equitable sharing restored, "the federal government expects to distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next year to VIPD" under the asset forfeiture program, the release said.
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