Dennis Cheng

Extortion has become an endemic problem in Central America. To provide a comprehensive response to this crime, the countries of the region have begun to make use of asset forfeiture, a tool that reduces the financial assets available to organized crime.

This paper describes how this legal procedure has evolved and been applied in the region, sets out the advantages it offers in the fight against organized crime and proposes strategies for better implementation.

Key points:

  • Extortion is a pervasive crime in Central America that feeds off the threat of violence from gangs and criminal organizations. If the proceeds of this crime are not seized, it will remain a lucrative business.
  • Asset forfeiture can be used to seize assets with an illegal origin or destination, assets comprising a mixture of legal and illegal components, assets with an equivalent or substitute value, and assets that have been abandoned, among others.
  • Assets recovered thanks to asset forfeiture can be used to finance the investigation and prosecution of crime, be used in the public interest or be returned to their rightful owners.
  • A clear policy on internal coordination must be built between the different organizations that deal with corruption, organized crime, extortion and asset forfeiture.