Justice Department Pressing Judges to Expand Patriot Act

Friday, 26 Nov 2010 06:29 PM

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The Justice Department wants Congress to widen -- or at least clarify -- the authority of federal judges to freeze U.S. assets that belong to suspected foreign criminals, The Wall Street Journal Reports.

eric,holder,justice,department,forfeituresTwo judges recently declined to exercise that power - despite Justice Department lawyers telling them they already have it under the Patriot Act - against a Brazilian banker and a former Russian politician, respectively, who are targets of criminal investigations in their native countries. In separate rulings, both judges said the Patriot Act does not authorize them to freeze assets linked to foreign crimes -- such as bank accounts, cars and real estate -- at the request of another government or on the basis of a temporary order by a foreign court.

So the Justice Department is asking Congress to revise Patriot Act language so that courts here can freeze allegedly tainted assets without having to wait for a final judgement by a foreign court. Justice Department officials say the tool is necessary to improve international law-enforcement cooperation and to keep the proceeds of overseas crime out of the United States.

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