Carpe Pecuniam: Criminal forfeiture of tainted legal fees
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A person charged with money laundering has a right to legal representation and a lawyer is entitled to defend such person. What if the lawyer is paid with dirty money? This paper explores the legal status of tainted fees, to determine whether such moneys should be forfeitable and, if so, what forfeiture means for the client’s right to legal representation and the lawyer’s right to practise his\her profession. This is an issue of international import and the paper considers criminal forfeiture of tainted legal fees in South Africa, the USA and Canada. All three jurisdictions provide for the criminalisation of tainted fees. However, South African lawyers are most in peril both of prosecution and conviction for accepting tainted fees and of having such fees confiscated. Whereas the USA and Canada uphold the right of lawyers to practise their profession, South Africa appears to negate it. The South African position requires reform.