Posted on 18. May, 2010 in News

Victoria’s tough asset confiscation laws are to be strengthened even further to ensure criminals are stripped of the proceeds of their crime more quickly and efficiently.

Acting Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said asset confiscation was a powerful tool to fight illegal activities in this state and prove that crime does not pay.

“Over the past decade, the estimated value of criminal assets frozen in Victoria has increased from around $3.5 million in 2000 to $53 million in 2009,” Mr Hulls said.

“Victoria’s tough asset confiscation recovered $17.5 million for the community from the sale of forfeited property in 2008-09 with another $2 million paid directly to victims of crime.

“In 2004 the Victorian Government introduced new laws that allowed police to seize assets on suspicion of criminal activity, rather than having to wait until charges have been laid.

“Victoria’s asset confiscation scheme has made it harder for serious and organised criminals to fund their illegal activities in this state and we are now introducing tough amendments to widen the net and make it even harder.

“New legislation will soon be introduced into the Victorian Parliament that will include measures to improve and enhance the asset confiscation scheme, making it harder for criminals to delay or hide unexplained wealth.”

These measures include:
• New anti-avoidance powers to stop criminals hiding assets through money laundering and other schemes;
• New powers for Police to seize lawfully acquired property as a substitute for property used in a crime. For example, Victoria Police can seize a vehicle purchased lawfully by a criminal to replace a vehicle used in a crime;
• Bolstered automatic forfeiture powers in relation to money laundering offences and serious fisheries offences (abalone poaching) so that more assets can be seized automatically upon conviction;
• Strengthened information-gathering powers to improve the efficiency of confiscation proceedings, and the ability to manage property that has been frozen for confiscation. This will enable the Asset Confiscation Office to access key information, such as mortgages to preserve or maximise the value of property forfeited by criminals;
• More robust civil forfeiture powers; and
• New powers for Police to seize assets and property that is likely to be used in future criminal activity.

Mr Hulls said additional resources were also being allocated to pursuing cases before the courts to speed up recoveries.

“These new measures will help disrupt and deter crime,” Mr Hulls said.
“Funds raised from the strengthening of the asset confiscation scheme will support changes to sentencing laws as announced by the Victorian Government as part of its reforms to suspended sentences.

“These reforms removed suspended sentences as a sentencing option in our courts for the most serious crimes and provided a suite of alternative sentencing options.”

Reforms to the asset confiscation scheme have been developed in consultation with the key confiscation agencies, namely the Asset Confiscation Office, the Office of Public Prosecutions and Victoria Police. These agencies support the proposal.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron said the Victorian Government and Victoria Police were making sure that criminals in this state know they will not only be punished, but they will be stripped of any wealth derived through crime.

“With crimes becoming more and more sophisticated, these reforms mean that Victoria Police can stay ahead of the game,” Mr Cameron said.

“Victoria Police are working hard to catch criminals, put them in jail and hit them in the hip pocket to prevent them benefiting from illegal activities.”

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