The Asset Forfeiture Unit

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The main aim of the AFU is to take the profit out of crime.
The main aim of the AFU is to take the profit out of crime.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is a branch of the National Prosecuting Authority. Its mission is to "take the profit out of crime". In other words, the unit aims to ensure that crime does not pay by removing the benefits derived from criminal activity. The Asset Forfeiture Unit targets the proceeds of certain crimes in particular, namely economic crime (e.g. fraud and 419 scams), corruption, cases involving natural resources, brothels, drugs, precious metals, violent crimes such as robbery, housebreaking, theft and the possession of stolen property.

Contents

[edit] History of the Asset Forfeiture Unit

The AFU was established in May 1999 in the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions to focus on the implementation of Chapters 5 and 6 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (No. 121 of 1998.) The main function of the unit is to exercise the State's right to seize criminal assets in the fight against crime, particularly organised crime.

The AFU has set itself a number of key strategic objectives, namely:

  • to develop the law by taking test cases to court and creating the legal precedents that are necessary to allow the effective use of the law;
  • to build the capacity to ensure that asset forfeiture is used as widely as possible to make a real impact in the fight against crime;
  • to make an impact on selected categories of priority crimes;
  • to establish a national presence;
  • to establish excellent relationships with its key partners, especially the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS); and
  • to build the AFU into a professional and representative organisation.

[edit] How Are Assets Seized?

Assets can be seized only once a court order has been obtained. The AFU investigators and advocates cannot be summoned to a crime scene and order goods to be seized. Only after a court order has been granted by the High Court may the goods be seized. After a case has been referred to the AFU, the matter is referred to the investigators for investigation.

The main functions of the investigators are the following:

  • investigating cases with forfeiture potential;
  • identifying cases with forfeiture potential;
  • compiling financial profiles on suspects linked to cases with forfeiture potential;
  • tracing assets linked to suspects in cases with forfeiture potential;
  • acting as a link between advocates from the AFU and the investigators from other units;
  • assisting advocates in preparing applications for court;
  • monitoring the criminal proceedings;
  • attending crime scenes with the criminal investigators;
  • assisting the curator bonis/sheriff of the court to effect service of an order and also to execute the order;
  • general administration of files;
  • effecting deposits into CARA (Criminal Assets Recovery Account) at the Reserve Bank;
  • performing standby duties and attending crime scenes after hours; and
  • making presentations regarding AFU proceedings and training members of other law enforcement agencies.

Other investigations try to find out whether items of property have been used to commit crimes. Such investigations explore questions such as the following:

  • Was the house or vehicle previously used to commit crimes?
  • Are the suspects members of an illegal syndicate?
  • Is the property in some way essential to their illegal operations?

After the case has been investigated, it is handed to an advocate to draft legal papers. In order for asset forfeiture to occur, a court order has to be obtained. Asset forfeiture proceedings are civil proceedings. The standard of proof is therefore proof on a balance of probabilities and not beyond a reasonable doubt. This makes it easier to obtain such orders.

Different kinds of order can be obtained, depending on the facts of the case.

These are:

  • restraint orders,
  • confiscation orders,
  • preservation orders,
  • forfeiture orders,

[edit] Restraint and Confiscation Orders

The first two orders, namely restraint and confiscation orders, depend on whether there has been a prosecution of a criminal and his/her conviction. In order to obtain these orders, it has to be shown that the accused benefited from his/her offence, and what the amount of that benefit was. The advocate seeks a confiscation order for the amount for which the accused benefited from his/her crime(s).

There are provisions in the Prevention of Organised Crime Act that increase the amount that can be requested from the Court in the confiscation order. This is, for example, in cases where the accused has previously been engaged in related-criminal activities. Another example is where the accused cannot justify owning assets, i.e. he or she cannot show that the assets are derived from a legitimate source of income. The value of those assets is calculated. A confiscation order is sought in the amount of the value of the property.

A restraint order is usually obtained prior to a confiscation order being made after the accused’s conviction. The accused’s property is seized or restrained before his/her conviction to ensure that property is available to be sold later to pay the confiscation order that may be made should the accused be convicted.

[edit] Preservation and Forfeiture Orders

The latter two orders, namely preservation and forfeiture orders, do not depend on a prosecution. Some evidence of criminal activity is, however, required. It has to be proved that the particular property, like a house or vehicle, is the proceeds of crime and/or an instrumentality of an offence. These orders target specific items of property like the house or car of the accused. The property has to be tainted in some way.

[edit] What Happens After an Order has Been Obtained?

Once an order has been granted by the relevant High Court, the assets need to be seized and stored to be sold later once a final order has been obtained. An independent person is appointed in the court order to seize the assets and preserve them until such order has been issued. This person is referred to as the curator bonis. Personnel from companies such as Deloitte & Touche, PriceWaterhouseCooper and Ernst & Young may act as a curator bonis.

A specific date is arranged for when the court order will be executed and the assets seized by the curator bonis. This is usually undertaken with the assistance of SAPS.

The court order is formally served on the suspect and/or other relevant parties by the sheriff of the court.

[edit] Contact Details

[edit] Head Office

Deputy National DirectorPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Willie Hofmeyr

Office number: C03.17

Tel: (012) 845 6695

Victoria & Griffiths Mxenge Building,

123 Westlake Avenue,

Weavind Park,

Tshwane, 0184

P/Bag X 752,

Tshwane, 0001

(012) 845 6000 (012) 804 7335/0

[edit] Tshwane Region

Deputy DirectoryPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Richard Chinner

Office number B03.21

Tel: (012) 845 6736

Victoria & Griffiths Mxenge Building,

123 Westlake Avenue,

Weavind Park,

Tshwane, 0184

P/Bag X 752,

Tshwane, 0001

(012) 845 6000 (012) 804 7335/0

[edit] Far North Region

Deputy DirectoryPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Peter Volmink

Office number: B03.22

Tel: (012) 845 6722

Victoria & Griffiths Mxenge Building,

123 Westlake Avenue,

Weavind Park,

Pretoria 0184

P/Bag X 752,

Pretoria, 0001

(012) 845 6000 (012) 804 7335/0

[edit] Cape Town

Regional HeadPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Hermione Cronje

Office number: 2.18

Tel: (021) 487 7084

NPA Building,

115 Buitengracht Street,

2nd Floor,

Cape Town, 8001


Private Bag X9178,

Cape Town, 8000

(021) 487 7000 (021 487 7083/4

[edit] Durban

Regional HeadPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Monty Moodley

Office number: 4

Tel: (031) 334 5184

12th Floor,

Southern Life Building,

88 Field St,

Durban, 4001

Private Bag X 54312,

Durban, 4000

(031) 334 5300 (031) 307 3992

OR (031) 334 5184

[edit] Johannesburg

Regional HeadPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Raylene Keightley

Office number: 1145

Tel: (011) 220 4134

Johannesburg High Court,

11th Floor,

C/o Pritchard & Kruis St,

Johannesburg, 2001

Private Bag X8,

Johannesurg, 2000

(011) 220 4096 (011) 337 8190

OR (011) 220 4067/99

[edit] Bloemfontein

Senior State AdvocatePhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Amanda Maree

Tel: (051) 410 6020

3rd Floor,

Waterfall Centre,

Alliwal Street,

Bloemfontein, 9301

Private Bag X 20506,

Bloemfontein, 9300

(051) 410 6000 (051) 410 6036


[edit] Port Elizabeth

Deputy DirectorPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
William Kingsley

Tel: (041) 502 5701

Pagdens-Stultings Building,

5 Bird Street,

Central,

Port Elizabeth, 6001

P/Bag X 6075,

Port Elizabeth, 6000

(041) 502 5700 (041) 582 2894


[edit] East London

Senior State AttorneyPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFax
Pieter Oosthuizen

Tel: (018) 381 9036

Old Spoornet Building,

17 Fleet Street,

East London, 5201

PO Box 1171,

East London, 5200

(043) 722 4082 (043) 722 3613

[edit] Limpopo

Senior State AdvocatePhysical AddressTelephoneFax
George Mashimbye

Tel: (015) 299 4914

Fax (084) 815 0582

31 Market Street

Moolman Building

Polokwane

(015) 299 4900/3 (015) 299 4945


[edit] MMbatho

Senior State AttorneyPhysical AddressPostal AddressTelephoneFaxEmail
Pieter Oosthuizen

Tel: (018) 381 9036

Email: poosthuizen@.npa.gov.za

Old Standard Bank Building,

C/o Main & Robinson Street

Mafikeng

Private Bag X2009,

Mmbatho, 2735

(018) 381 8003 (018) 381 9030 poosthuizen@.npa.gov.za
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