Joven Narwal provided commentary for “Will B.C. Adopt ‘McMafia’ Law to Combat Money Laundering”, an article published by Graeme Wood n Business in Vancouver, Pique News Magazine, the New West Record and other local media. Below is an excerpt of Mr. Narwal’s commentary:
But such orders pose significant risks to freedom and possibly Charter rights, according to many commission observers, including criminal defence lawyer Joven Narwal.
Such a tool is “a frightening expansion of the surveillance state,” one that has Orwellian overtones, said Narwal.
Narwal says many of Cullen’s recommendations — with UWOs among his chief concerns — “involve substantially increased state surveillance and an erosion of privacy protections of all British Columbians.”
“In my view,” said Narwal, “the cure is worse than the disease, yet distressingly, the current public discourse has yet to grapple with this possibility.”
Such orders “de-incentivizes proper investigations, because the law leaves it to the accused to prove their innocence,” argued Narwal.
UWOs run the real risk, he added, of being subject to arbitrary state definitions and it’s plausible information gathered from UWOs can be collected and shared within government agencies, “who in turn have free rein to conjure fantasies of illegal activity, sparking costly nuisances such as inquiries, audits and investigations of innocent people,” said Narwal.
The lawyer is also no fan of publicly available databases of beneficial ownership, as proposed by Cullen and appears to be gathering momentum nationwide.
“While we demand the state use its awe-inspiring machinery justifiably, in the real world the demand is not always met. There are other non-obvious forms of collateral damage caused by unjustified state intrusion. For example, there is a rising tide of cases in which banks and other financial intermediaries will terminate banking relationships if they receive a simple inquiry from an enforcement agency about an individual,” said Narwal.
Narwal notes the court case “National Crime Agency v. Baker,” as the first instance, in 2020, an order has been overturned.
The Baker case looked at how much evidence is needed to raise an “irresistible inference” of criminality to justify the order. Ultimately, the state did not have enough evidence to justify the order, according to a summary by London law firm Corker Binning.
“The family (of a deceased senior Kazakh governmental official) was publicly humiliated through that process, only to be vindicated after the damage had been done to their reputations and well-being,” said Narwal.