Page 586 - Week 02 - Thursday, 20 February 2020

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Title read by Clerk.

MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts, Creative Industries and Cultural Events, Minister for Building Quality Improvement, Minister for Business and Regulatory Services and Minister for Seniors and Veterans) (10.58): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Today I present the Confiscation of Criminal Assets (Unexplained Wealth) Amendment Bill 2020. This bill is one of many measures that the ACT government has taken during this term of government to target and to disrupt serious and organised crime. Unexplained wealth laws strike at the heart of serious criminal offending through the seizure, restraint and forfeiture of assets of those who cannot prove that their wealth was not the result of serious criminal activity. This bill allows for the restraint and, ultimately, the forfeiture of property by a person connected to a serious criminal offence where they cannot show that their wealth was lawfully acquired.

These laws have been progressively adopted across Australia and around the world as a measure to strip criminals of the profits of crime. Unexplained wealth laws are unique in their ability to target those directing and masterminding criminal activity, particularly at arm’s length. This bill amends the Confiscation of Criminal Assets Act 2003, known as the COCA Act, to create a new ACT unexplained wealth scheme and provides for two types of orders: unexplained wealth restraining orders and unexplained wealth orders.

The bill targets criminal offending in cases where it is not possible to prove a direct connection between assets and a criminal offence, even though the criminal activity may be well known by authorities. The bill is fundamentally different from the existing confiscation of criminal assets regime in the ACT as traditional confiscation mechanisms require a direct link to the commission of an offence. Under the current scheme, for property to be confiscated the property must have either been used in the commission of an offence or directly derived from the commission of an offence. Examples of where this direct link can be proved include where a car is used as a getaway car from an armed robbery or in relation to shares or other property bought using money stolen during the commission of the armed robbery.

This bill allows authorities to intervene proactively when wealth is identified and there is a suspicion that it has been derived from serious criminal activity. This approach facilitates law enforcement powers to detect and deter crime by targeting assets associated with crime. The bill shifts the burden of proof onto the respondent to show that they lawfully acquired their wealth. This is consistent with how other jurisdictions approach this type of scheme and ensures that the person with the ability to explain what would otherwise be unexplainable is afforded an opportunity to do so.

This bill introduces additional measures to disrupt high-level members of organised crime groups who may profit from crime yet prove difficult to link to specific offences. The first part of the unexplained wealth scheme creates restraining orders

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