ACT Introduces Bill to Combat Proceeds of Organised Crime

Friday 28 February 2020 @ 11.19 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

On 20 February 2020, the Confiscation of Criminal Assets (Unexplained Wealth) Amendment Bill 2020 (the “Bill”) was presented to ACT’s Legislative Assembly (the “Assembly”) by Gordon Ramsay MLA (the Attorney-General). The Bill is currently before the Assembly.

The Bill proposes extensive amendments to the Confiscation of Criminal Assets Act 2003 (ACT).


The Bill’s Explanatory Statement (the “ES”) indicates that the Bill proposes the establishment of a local “unexplained wealth scheme for the ACT”. The purpose of introducing such a scheme, according to the ES is “to more effectively deter and disrupt serious criminal activity, including organised crime, and ensure those involved in such crime do not profit from their illegal activities.”

In a Media Release of February 2020, the Minister said:

“The ACT Government is continuing to tackle organised crime following the introduction of a localised unexplained wealth scheme designed to strip criminals of assets obtained through illegal activities … These reforms will target those who gain material benefits from drug trafficking or other serious organised criminal activity as well as those masterminding or directing criminal activity at arms-length …”

Independent Review into Policing in the ACT

In September 2019, the Justice and Community Safety Directorate engaged Dr Terry Goldsworthy to undertake an independent review of the effectiveness of ACT police powers to target, disrupt, investigate and prosecute criminal gang members. A key purpose of the review was to meet the statutory obligation for the Attorney-General to examine the operation of the crime scene powers in Division 10.4A of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) as soon as practicable after the end of the first year of operation of that division.

On 6 December 2019, Dr Goldsworthy finalised a report on the findings and recommendations of the review, with the Attorney-General tabling the final report in the Assembly on 20 February 2020.

As indicated in the Executive Summary to the Review:

“ … [This review] seeks to inform the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government about the effectiveness of its newly introduced crime scene powers and its legislative responses to serious and organised crime. The review team was requested to undertake its analysis with a focus on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCGs) in terms of applying various legislative schemes … There is room for improvement in some identified areas, for which appropriate recommendations have been made …”

The Proposed Amendments

The Bill, according to the ES, proposes the introduction of two types of orders which can be sought in relation to instances of unexplained wealth:

  • an unexplained wealth restraining order - is an interim order that restrict a person’s ability to dispose of, or otherwise deal with, property. These provisions ensure that property is preserved and cannot be dissipated before a court can consider whether an unexplained wealth order should be made. A court must make an unexplained wealth restraining order if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a person’s total wealth exceeds the value of the person’s wealth that was lawfully acquired and the whole or any part of the person’s wealth was derived from serious criminal activity; and
  • an unexplained wealth order - is a final order that makes payable to the Territory an amount which, in the court’s opinion, constitutes the difference between a person’s total wealth and the value of the person’s wealth that has been lawfully acquired. The court has a discretion to refuse to make an order or reduce the amount payable.

Comment on the Bill

The Minister commented in his second reading speech that the Bill is one of many measures taken by the ACT Government to target and disrupt serious and organised crime. In the Minister's view, unexplained wealth legislation "strike[s] at the heart of serious criminal offending" by allowing the seizure, restraint and forfeiture of the assets of those who cannot prove that their wealth was not the result of serious criminal activity.

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Confiscation of Criminal Assets (Unexplained Wealth) Amendment Bill 2020 [ACT] - Bill and supporting material available from TimeBase's LawOne Service

Media Release - Combating organised crime: Unexplained wealth (ACT Government, 20 February 2020)

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