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If a forfeiture statute clearly states that all right, title and interest in property' obtained by criminals via the illicit means described in the statute 'vests in the United States upon the commission of the act giving rise to forfeiture.' 21 U.S.C. § 853(c) (1982 ed., Supp. V) this is known as the taint theory of forfeiture. This approach, known as the 'taint theory,' is one that 'has long been recognized in forfeiture cases,' including the decision in United States v. Stowell, 133 U.S. 1 (1890). See S. Rep. No. 98-225, p. 200, and n. 27 (1983).


In Stowell, the Court explained the operation of a forfeiture provision (for violations of the Internal Revenue Code) as follows: 'As soon as [the possessor of the forfeitable asset committed the violation] of the internal revenue laws, the forfeiture under those laws took effect, and (though needing judicial condemnation to perfect it) operated from that time as a statutory conveyance to the United States of all the right, title and interest then remaining in the [possessor]; and was as valid and effectual, against all the world, as a recorded deed. The right so vested in the United States ...

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