ESPACIO PUBLICITARIO
CARACAS, Thursday November 21, 2013 | Update
 
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Usury

EL UNIVERSAL
Thursday November 21, 2013  02:29 PM
Designation of the crime of usury in Venezuelan laws is unrestricted, that is, for free interpretation. This results in a great deal of discretion and legal uncertainty, just what the criminal law should avoid. Every definition of a crime must be governed by the principle of strict criminal law so as to avoid misinterpretation.

The generic definition of usury violates the binding laws of the Constitutional Chamber, Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), which has reiterated that the constitutional guarantee of criminal lawfulness must be ensured in every law. Legislating judges must be avoided, as well as analogy and "crime in blank."

Article 144 of the Law for the Defense of People's Access to Goods and Services (LDPABIS) states that "any person who, through an agreement, whatever the means used to certify, cover or diminish an operation, obtains on his/her own or on behalf of a third party, directly or indirectly, a disproportionately advantageous consideration shall commit the crime of usury." That is, no rate or percentage is set in order to assess the prohibited conduct. In the same article, bank usury is designated as violation of rates, fees and surcharges set by the Central Bank of Venezuela. Such rule lacks something essential to fulfillment or completeness.

Open definition of crime is as harmful as the definition of crimes by analogy under the Soviet Criminal Code. Under such code, any non-designated conduct similar to a current offense should be punished as such an offense. Millions of victims suffered the consequences. This is also related to blank laws which refer to sub-legal rules in order to be completed. All of that is forbidden by the TSJ.

Fernando M. Fernández

fernando.fernandez@bakermckenzie.com
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