The Government is providing Police with additional tools to seize the illicit assets of organised criminals, Justice Minister, Kiri Allan, announced today.
The Minister said legislative changes were targeted at gangs and intended to strip gang members of the benefits of their criminal activity.
“This is about ensuring crime doesn’t pay and that there are major consequences for criminal and gang activity,” Ms Allan said.
“The new amendments to the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act will ensure if someone is associated with an organised criminal group and its suspected they couldn’t have funded their assets legitimately, then they can now be required to prove to the court how they came to possess them – or face having them seized.”
Currently, organised criminals structure their affairs to avoid their illicit assets being restrained and forfeited, she said.
“This is done by creating distance between themselves and the assets by putting property into associates’ names.”
Police Minister, Chris Hipkins said Police’s experience with criminal proceeds investigations shows that use of intermediaries, third parties, relatives or friends are a feature of many cases.
“The steps taken today continue the Government’s multi-faceted approach to tackling the harm caused by gangs and other organised criminal groups,” Mr Hipkins said.
“This is the next step in the Government’s work to curb crime and make our communities safer. It will mean that not only do we have more frontline Police than ever before, they also have greater powers to hit gangs where it hurts.
“This goes hand in hand with the Government’s support for work within communities to stop young people becoming involved in crime and gangs in the first place,” he said.
Cabinet has agreed to the following changes to Act:
- New powers to target the associates of organised criminal groups and restrain their property, when it is clear their legitimate finances would’ve been unlikely to have enabled them to acquire the assets.
- A new court order that will mean criminals based overseas who have assets in New Zealand will face losing those assets, unless they can provide proof within two months that they obtained their property legally.
- Amending a technical gap, which will allow the Official Assignee – the government body that manages assets restrained under CPRA – to hold seized property longer than 28 days while the court considers an application for a restraining order.
- Allow funds in KiwiSaver schemes to be subject to civil forfeiture orders, eliminating the potential for criminals to hide illegal funds in their KiwiSaver.
The Government will also shortly introduce the legislation that creates new offences and enforcement powers to give Police more tools to combat gangs, said Minister Allan.