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Confiscation law remains

WA’S Criminal Property Confiscation Act is here to stay.

WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty said Labor had supported the law that was brought in by the Court Government and had no intention of changing it in the near future.

However, Mr McGinty admitted banks risked losing because their money could be tainted by criminal proceeds.

He said it could be possible for a criminal to use the proceeds of crime to pay the deposit on a mortgage.

If the criminal was later caught, under the Act his property would be seized and the bank would lose its investment in the mortgage.

“How would the banks know the money was from the proceeds of crime?” Mr McGinty asked.

The law allows the WA Director of Public Prosecutions the power to vest property to the State free of any encumbrances such as a mortgage under a number of circumstances.

It is aimed at curtailing the actions of drug dealers.

The law has been branded draconian because a person only needs to be charged with a criminal offence to have assets seized.

Citibank, which was examining its position regarding the new law, has branded them onerous.

A spokesman for the bank said the new law gave the State sweeping powers to make orders in relation to crime-used and crime-derived property as defined in the legislation.

“These powers include the power to make orders freezing and/or confiscating such property and, ultimately, a power of sale,” the spokesman said.

“The legislation imposes an onerous burden on a mortgagee of property affected by the legislation.

“A mortgagee will be required to establish that it is an innocent party as defined in the legislation.

“While as a matter of public policy it might be appropriate to reverse the usual onus of proof for owners or controllers of affected property, it seems unnecessarily harsh to impose this burden on a mortgagee.”

In two high-profile cases the DPP seized properties worth $1.5 million owned by alleged drug dealer Chicote Marker and his girlfriend and assets worth an estimated $2.5 million owned by Paul Musarri, who was also charged with drug offences.

The law is due to be reviewed in a few years time and Mr McGinty says there are no plans to bring the review forward.

“When the Act was being debated in Parliament, Labor drew attention to some of its shortcomings and one of them was a lack of protection for the banks,” Mr McGinty said.

“But we’ve received no approaches from the financial sector for any parts of the legislation to be changed.”

The Law Society said the protection for lenders, whether they were a family member or a bank, were unclear.

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