The United States Court of Appeals has stymied an attempt by the US Department of Justice attempt to seize seven million dollars-worth of assets from the international bank accounts of online gambling
enterprise WorldWide Telesports and its fugitive major shareholder Bill Scott.
The Justice officials were confident that the assets would be seized, having secured a summary judgement in a lower court, but Court of Appeals Judge Thomas B. Griffith put a spanner in the DoJ works by ruling that the seizure could not occur because Scott was not a true fugitive under all five conditions set down by US law.
Despite the existence of warrants for Scott's arrest, Judge Griffith ruled that the government was not entitled to seek forfeiture of the $7 million as Scott's case did not satisfy all five criteria established by previous federal court interpretations of US "fugitive disentitlement" statutes.
In a prior case, a judge decided that an alleged fugitive's assets could only be seized in cases:
1. where a warrant has been issued in a criminal case for the fugitive's apprehension;
2. where the subject had "notice or knowledge" of that warrant and the criminal case was related to the forfeiture action;
3. where the alleged fugitive is not already incarcerated in a foreign jail; and
4. where the fugitive has "deliberately avoided criminal prosecution by leaving the United States" and;
5. where the fugitive declines to enter or reenter the country or otherwise evades the criminal court's jurisdiction.
Judge Griffith set aside the summary judgment because the government had failed to establish a direct link between Scott's refusal to return to the US and his wish to avoid prosecution.