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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



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This can not be right

25 February 2020

Society has laws for good reason.

Laws are there to ensure that we (the members of society) behave in ways that are acceptable to that society as a whole.

Some laws, such as those prohibiting crimes such as murder, rape or robbery, are very important and serve to protect us from the miscreants and bad actors who might otherwise deprive us of our most basic rights.

Other laws, such as those that provide for taxation, prohibit us from parking without paying or which mandate that you can't catch fish without a license, are more designed to ensure that the basic infrastructure on which our society relies can continue to be provided.

One law that has become rather contentious however, is that which allows the state to confiscate "the proceeds of crime".

In theory, this law sounds reasonable. If you have profited in any way from the commission of a crime or crimes, you ought not be able to keep those profits, nor indeed any monies or assets obtained in such an illegal fashion.

Without such an act it would be tempting to pull off a $2m robbery, spend the money on a nice house, flash car etc... and then, after serving your 10 years in jail, come out of prison with an effective earning-rate whilst inside of $200K a year.

Unacceptable, obviously.

However, the proceeds of crime laws are becoming a bit "unfair" in the eyes of many.

There are cases where land-owners have reportedly had their properties seized by the state simply because (apparently unknown to them), someone had planted a crop of dope on them. It seems that the basic tenet of the justice system (the presumption of innocence) no longer applies in such cases and if PC plod finds a patch of cannibis plants in the middle of your corn crop then you, as the property owner, have to prove they're not yours or risk a huge financial penalty.

Okay, maybe some of the reports relating to such unfair seizures are overstated... but this RNZ report seems to be awfully worrying.

If the report is to be believed (and remember, this is the mainstream media we're talking about so its veracity is always in question) then we should be worried, very worried!

If this case sets a precedent then it would appear that any business which profits from breaches in Health & Safety laws could find itself forfeiting its assets to the crown under the proceeds of crime legislation.

WTF?

Who in their right mind would risk starting a business if this was the case?

One idiot manager who allows someone to use machinery without the requisite guards or safety gear could effectively see the entire operation forfeit to the crown -- even though the actual *owner* of the business may have played no part at all in the breach.

Sadly, the fact is that when there's money involved, justice often takes a back seat to greed -- even at a judicial and governmental level.

It would appear that if someone breaks a law, their entire worldly wealth may now be forfeit to the state -- even if that wealth was earned by honest means. After all, the onus is on the accused to prove that these are not ill-gotten-gains. In most cases, even the IRD doesn't require you to keep financial records for more than a few years -- so what if police decide to lay charges alleging criminal activity on your part from 10 or 20 years ago? How do you prove that stuff you bought back then wasn't related to the proceeds of those alleged crimes?

And note that I said "alleged"?

That's right... apparently you don't have to be found guilty of a crime to forfeit your money or assets. In fact, you don't even have to be charged with a crime for the proceeds of crime laws to kick in.

The reality is that PC plod can roll up to your door and say "we're taking all your stuff and emptying your bank account because we think you've earned that money from crime". When that happens, you must prove that *every* dollar you have earned is legit and can be accounted for.

Open to abuse?

Hell yeah!

Is the South Auckland oil recycling business in the RNZ story just the thin end of a very nasty wedge that will help future governments balance their books in a far more effective way than daring to raise taxes?

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