INDEPENDENT NEWS

Proceeds of Crime Act ineffectual

Published: Wed 13 Oct 1999 04:36 PM
Organised crime has escaped unscathed from the operation of the Proceeds of Crimes Act and the Act needs radical revision said Labour's Justice spokesperson Phil Goff.
"Police reports over the last two years show that on average less than $300,000 a year has been forfeited by criminals. This is roughly equivalent to the value of one property confiscated from a cannabis grower each year.
"Put in the context of the hundreds of millions of dollars earned from crime in New Zealand annually, this sum is insignificant.
"The Act has not worked effectively against organised crime and the public will not be impressed at the belated recognition of this by the Minister of Justice in the dying days of his Government.
"What we need is legislation which can make real inroads into criminal gang activity and in particular the massive proceeds earned by gangs from drug trafficking.
"This was the purpose for which the Act was passed but it has not succeeded in its objectives. Rather than securing the proceeds of offending, it has been used predominantly to confiscate farms or houses where cannabis plots have been found.
"More effective ways are needed to get at the assets of known criminal offenders associated with organised crime, whose assets and lifestyle could not possibly be financed from their legitimate income.
"In those cases we should examine reversing the onus of proof so that convicted offenders with criminal gang associations have to show how their assets were acquired, rather than the onus being on the police to show that the money came from crime.
"Crime cannot be allowed to pay. We know that gangs have acquired substantial returns from drug trafficking and the police need powers and resources to confiscate the profits of that crime.
"Tough powers should be targeted against those who merit such attention. There must be safeguards to ensure that powers are not misused as part of fishing expeditions against ordinary members of the community. The legislation must be carefully drafted and properly considered so that Parliament produces effective law.
"The public deserves more than just political rhetoric six weeks out from an election," Mr Goff said.

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