Blawgletter learned today that the U.S. government may go to court to "arrest" money on deposit in an overseas bank and seek forfeiture of the funds on the ground that they resulted from conduct that violated federal criminal law. We also discovered, thanks to the D.C. Circuit, that a third party claimant may contest forfeiture by arguing that the loot belongs to him, it, or her. United States v. $6,976,934.65, No. 07-5383 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 27, 2009).
The decision turned on the proper reading of "the fugitive disentitlement statute", 28 U.S.C. 2466, which Congress called the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000. A third-party claimant, Soulbury Limited, a B.V.I. entity, filed a claim to millions of dollars that the U.S. government claimed for itself under the fugitive disentitlement statute. The district court granted the government's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Soulbury hadn't raised a fact issue as to any of the elements of the forfeiture claim.
The D.C. Circuit reversed because, it held, the government hadn't proved as a matter of law the final element of the claim — that the allegedly fugitive criminal had fled the U.S. or failed to return for the purpose of eluding extradition or arrest. The alleged criminal left the country in 1992, but the alleged crimes (involving Internet gambling that he orchestrated in the U.S. from a perch in the Caribbean) didn't occur until 1998. So there was no evidence he fled to avoid capture. And a television interview he gave in 2001 was ambiguous about the reason he'd not returned. Maybe he kinda liked the Caribbean lifestyle.