Proceeds of Crime
In some cases, the Police and the Crown will apply to the Courts for restraint and forfeiture of assets, income or property which has been derived from "significant criminal activity”. A person does not have to be convicted of a criminal offence for the Crown to be successful in these types of applications.
A new law, the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009, provides the Crown with wide-ranging powers to restrain and forfeit assets, income and property.
These new powers are being used more and more by the Police and the Crown. Between 2010 and 2013, $150 million worth of assets including residential and commercial properties, funds in bank accounts, cars and shares were restrained and/or seized and forfeited to the Crown. In the year ending March 2014 alone, a total of $16.6 million worth of assets was forfeited.
In order to enforce the new law, the Police have set up specific Asset Recovery Units throughout New Zealand in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. The Police also work with other agencies such as Customs and Inland Revenue to seize financial assets.
Cases that can be subject to a Crown application under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 involve a wide range of alleged criminal offending including methamphetamine and cannabis offending and serious fraud. Those allegedly involved in drug offending by far make up the majority of the people who are being targeted by the new law.
The standard of proof for seizing assets and property is lower than that required for a criminal conviction.
Any application made is independent and separate from any criminal prosecution meaning that it doesn’t matter whether a person is convicted or found not guilty of criminal activity in order for assets to be restrained and forfeited to the Crown. Often it is up to a person who has been served with an application for restraint and forfeiture of property and assets to prove that they did not obtain them directly or indirectly from criminal offending.
Applications for restraint and forfeiture can also affect partners and families of those persons accused. Partners and family members of a person who the Crown says has been involved in criminal activity often stand to lose their interest in assets or property unless they inform the Court of their interest or share.
Expert representation is essential should you find your assets the subject of a Crown restraint or forfeiture application.
At Tony Balme Law, we can provide you with advice and representation to defend and/or negotiate any applications made under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.