Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The tentacles reach far—even into the origin of Western concepts of individual liberty.  A British court has ordered

the wife of a jailed Azerbaijani banker to explain how she and her husband could afford their multimillion-pound London mansion or face having it seized.

Government does not have to prove the illegal origin of the money.  No, the holder of the money must prove her innocence.  Here is the outcome of the British government’s legislation ostensibly aimed at allegedly dirty money held by people with political connections or suspected of serious crime.

Think about that: someone with the wrong political connections in the eyes of someone in government, or someone whom somebody in government decides is behaving suspiciously, now must prove his lack of guilt.

Money laundering might seem a perfectly fine excuse for invading individual liberty in this way: truly laundered money does indeed have origins that are inimical to safety.

But so are individual liberties critical to the safety of each of us.  What is the government’s limiting principle here?  Where does the tradeoff between security and liberty naturally end?

Innocent until proven guilty is a concept that must protect even the unsavory, or apparently unsavory, among us because that protection is critical to our own safety.

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