Australian Institute of Criminology

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Procedural impediments to effective unexplained wealth legislation in Australia

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 523

Marcus Smith and Russell G Smith
ISSN 1836-2206
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, December 2016

Abstract | Australia’s unexplained wealth laws form part of a range of measures introduced in response to growing concern about the prevalence and impact of organised crime. The confiscation of criminal assets, including through the use of unexplained wealth legislation, seeks to undermine the business model of organised crime by removing its financial return, punishing offenders, compensating society, preventing the improper use of assets and deterring participation in crime (Bartels 2010a).

The Australian Crime Commission has conservatively estimated that serious and organised crime cost Australia $36b in 2013–14 (ACC 2015). According to published national statistics, the total value of assets confiscated in Australian jurisdictions between 1995–96 and 2013–14 was approximately $800m, averaging around $44m annually. The discrepancy between these two amounts clearly shows more needs to be done to target the profits of organised crime.

This paper reviews Australia’s current approaches to confiscating unexplained wealth and aims to identify any barriers to their implementation, to inform effective procedural reforms to the laws and better target the proceeds of crime of Australia’s most serious criminals.