Risk of legal uncertainty for your savings
In February, the Canadian government temporarily blocked the savings accounts of more than 200 supporters of the truckers’ protests in Canada. It did so under a law designed for extremely serious situations. In this context, the lack of clarity in the draft bill for the reform of the Spanish National Security Law fuels fears of legal uncertainty over our savings accounts.
In an unprecedented decision, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on 15 February the possibility of freezing bank accounts without judicial supervision. The aim was to put an end to the mobilisations against the measure that obliges truck drivers not vaccinated against Covid-19 to maintain quarantine upon entering the country. These protests had intensified since a convoy of trucks arrived in Ottawa three weeks earlier.
To implement this measure, the Canadian government appealed for the first time in history to the Emergency Act, passed in 1985. This law was intended for urgent and critical situations of a temporary nature that “seriously endanger the life, health or safety of Canadians” or seriously threaten “the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity”.
Paradoxically, Justin Trudeau had previously shown his public support for Indian farmers who, for months, held roadblocks on highways leading to New Delhi.
The order to block bank accounts without judicial oversight was in place for a week. The police claimed to have applied it to more than 200 accounts of people who had participated in or donated to the protesters. According to local media, those affected ranged from a single mother on minimum wage who had donated 50 Canadian dollars to an account holder with 3.8 million.
On the same day that the Canadian prime minister announced his intention to block bank accounts, the Spanish government sent the draft bill to Congress to reform the National Security Act. In a global context of increasing restrictions on fundamental freedoms, the modification of this law has aroused many misgivings in legal, economic, and associative circles due to its scope, lack of limits on its application, and legal formula.
In the new wording, the economic and financial sphere is considered to be one of special interest for national security, so financial assets could be affected by various sections of the new text.
On the one hand, the draft bill details that “the competent authorities, following the directives of the National Security Council or the functional authority, may proceed to the temporary seizure of all types of assets”, and to the “suspension of activities”.
In another point, the draft bill establishes that “the government may agree to the suspension of the liberalisation regime” in the case of acts, businesses, transactions, or operations that “affect or may affect activities related, even if only occasionally, to the exercise of public power, or activities directly related to defence or national security, or activities that affect or may affect public order, public safety, and public health”.
Criticism from several quarters
The broad power granted to the public authorities to deal with very ill-defined crisis situations has raised concerns about a possible authoritarian interpretation of this new legal framework. Even the Council of State issued an opinion critical of the draft bill because, among other things, it does not consider the “exclusion of the right to compensation in compulsory personal provisions” to be justified.
It cannot be overlooked that the Constitution protects private property and establishes that “no one may be deprived of their property and rights except for justified reasons of public utility or social interest, by means of the corresponding compensation and in accordance with the provisions of the law”. On the other hand, the Magna Carta already contemplates the states of Alarm, Exception, and Siege to deal with emergency situations that require limitations on fundamental individual liberties.
From various quarters, it is questioned whether these new restrictions on fundamental freedoms can be articulated through an ordinary law instead of an organic law, as required by Articles 53 and 81 of the Constitution.
In short, if the reform of the National Security Law were to pass through the parliamentary approval process without substantial modifications, legal uncertainty could affect accounts based in Spain.
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