Ballarat police to be granted powers to seize unexplained assets under new laws

Ballarat police will be able to seize unexplained assets of alleged criminals.
Ballarat police will be able to seize unexplained assets of alleged criminals.

ALLEGED offenders with flashy new toys may see them confiscated before conviction after legislation was introduced to State Parliament on Tuesday.

The legislation to establish an unexplained wealth confiscation scheme will allow a court to order the restraining of all the property of a person suspected on reasonable grounds of serious criminal activity. 

It will be the responsibility of the person concerned to prove the restrained property has lawful origins. Where they cannot do so, the assets will be forfeited. 

Police Association Victoria secretary Ron Iddles said the legislation was well overdue.

"All other states have it except for ACT. We've (Victoria) been behind because there was meeting of all states six months ago, about unexplained wealth and we were behind the eight ball," Detective Senior Sergeant Iddles. 

"Currently, police are required to prove that an asset is the proceeds of crime. Whereas the onus has been shifted to the owner to prove the asset has not been purchased by the proceeds of crime.

"It makes it easier for police and harder for organised criminals to hide it."

Detective Senior Sergeant Iddles said, if passed, the legislation would target high end level drug traffickers, where a possible penalty exceeded five years.

"(As an example under the new law) in Ballarat, a detective could go to a house and charge someone with selling ice. 

"There is a new 4WD and a new boat in the driveway and the suspect says 'I haven't worked in three years', then the officer can then make a request to say they have acquired the goods through illegal means.

"The ice dealer has to justify where the 4WD and boat has come from. The question is how did you pay for it where did the money come from, is it the proceeds of drug money?"

The new laws will operate alongside existing asset confiscation laws and the penalty in legislation currently before the Parliament for those convicted of trafficking in large commercial quantities of drugs to forfeit almost everything they own.