The Provincial Asset Forfeiture Unit (PAFU) initiative is led and coordinated by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and comprised of OPP members and members of other municipal police services across Ontario. The role of PAFU is to assist with the identification, seizure, restraint and forfeiture of offence-related property and proceeds of crime. The authority for this process is found in the Criminal Code of Canada, which specifies that it applies to “any property, benefit or advantage derived from the commission of designated offences”.
PAFU’s objective is to dismantle criminal enterprises by applying available criminal legislative tools (such as Proceeds of Crime and Offence-Related Property) and civil legislative tools (such as the Civil Remedies Act). PAFU responds directly to recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force, which are widely accepted as the international standard for dealing with threats to the integrity of the international financial system (including money laundering and the funding of terrorism). Law enforcement can attack and dismantle criminal enterprises by applying available criminal and civil legislative tools. The Civil Remedies Act is the provincial legislation enabling the Crown to seize assets/property derived from criminal activities or in the commission of a criminal act. The Civil Remedies for Illicit Activities Office administers the seized assets and distributes the grants on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
Investigations and Organized Crime Command, Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau
Cooperative and consultative
PAFU was established in 2001 and is an OPP-led Joint Forces Operation. In the years since its inception, PAFU has been instrumental in increasing awareness within the law enforcement community of what asset forfeiture is and how effective it is as a deterrent tool/mechanism.
One of the primary motivators of crime is profit. Depriving criminals of wealth acquired through criminal activity and property utilized to facilitate crime is an effective crime reduction strategy. The legislation allowing for criminal and civil asset forfeiture supports two key tenets: that crime should not pay; and that property should not be used for criminal means. Dismantling the financial infrastructure of a criminal enterprise and removing property that facilitates crime are effective methods to suppress criminal activities, therefore mitigating the devastating community impact.
PAFU is an OPP-led Joint Forces Operation. The OPP has partnered with 20 municipal and regional police services to bring this specialized team of investigators together in support of criminal investigations. Approximately 50 officers are assigned to this unit across the province, with funding for these positions coming from the participating agencies. Specific financial information is not available.
The OPP provides leadership for PAFU, and its partner agencies provide liaison and/or full-time resources. This collaboration provides excellence in the delivery of the PAFU mandate. The partners include the following police services: Peel, Barrie, Hamilton, Halton Regional, York, Peterborough Lakefield, Durham, Kingston, Brockville, Ottawa, Waterloo, Windsor, Chatham-Kent, Brantford, London, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Greater Sudbury and Thunder Bay.
From 2008 through 2013, PAFU members have been successful in seizing and/or restraining over $183 million from criminal infrastructures. During the same time period, $69 million in assets and property have been forfeited to the government. There are still many cases before the courts.
As communicated on the OPP's public-facing website (http://www.opp.ca/ecms/index.php?id=55), the mandate of PAFU is as follows: 1. Disrupt and dismantle organized criminal enterprises. 2. Educate senior police leaders, Crown prosecutors and the judiciary regarding the impacts of organized crime. 3. Provide hope, support and assistance to victims of crime.
Please contact OPP for further information.
The key performance measure is the value of illegal assets seized and forfeited. Recent cases of interest include the following:
PAFU is regularly called upon to conduct parallel investigations with substantive units, such as the OPP Drug Enforcement Unit, the Biker Enforcement Unit, the Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit, the Organized Crime Enforcement Unit and more. PAFU also supports the investigations of frontline officers including highway criminal interdiction (currency seizures), impaired driving and other investigations. Although it is never the motive, there is an added financial benefit to seizing and forfeiting illicit assets. Property or money that is not used to compensate victims or is not returnable to an innocent third party will be forfeited to the Crown. Pursuant to the applicable sharing regimes, these forfeited assets are converted to funds and can be reinvested in law enforcement activities.