“Proceeds of crime” refers to any money or property gained from criminal activity. The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) pursues and confiscates cash, property and other assets obtained this way in order to attack the profitability of crime, remove the profit incentive from crime and prevent its expansion into further illegal activity by removing its funding source. It is a key crime prevention strategy.
The CCC works closely with the Queensland Police Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in identifying and litigating proceeds of crime matters. It also deals extensively with the Public Trustee of Queensland, who is responsible for holding restrained property in trust and disposing of it. In Queensland, money and property forfeited to the State as proceeds of crime is sold and returned to the State’s consolidated revenue fund, to be reinvested in the community.
The Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002 (CPCA) enables confiscation of:
- property derived directly or indirectly from criminal activity
- property used in committing an offence, even if it was lawfully acquired
- property belonging to serious drug offenders
- property of individuals who are unable to explain how they lawfully acquired their wealth.
In broad terms, the key stages in recovering proceeds of crime are:
- Investigation and evidence gathering
- Restraint: a temporary hold is placed on property, to prevent the owner selling or otherwise disposing of it
- Forfeiture: permanent loss of property
- Disposal: property is sold by the Public Trustee.
The CCC can apply to the Supreme Court to confiscate property under either of the following schemes.
- Under the civil confiscation scheme, a person's property can be restrained where there is a reasonable suspicion of serious crime-related activity.
- Under the serious drug offender confiscation order scheme (SDOCO), the property of a person who is convicted of a qualifying drug offence is liable to forfeiture, even if the property was acquired lawfully.
About the civil confiscation scheme
Step 1: Restraint of property: If the Supreme Court is satisfied that there is a reasonable suspicion that a person has engaged in serious crime-related activity, it can grant a restraining order over that person’s property, which prohibits them from selling or otherwise disposing of the property. The restraining order has a life of 28 days and it continues if an application for forfeiture, or proceeds assessment or unexplained wealth order is made to the court during that period by the CCC (step 2).
Step 2: Forfeiture of property can be actioned through the following types of orders:
- A forfeiture order. To obtain this order, the State must prove that the person has engaged in serious crime-related activity in the past 6 years. If granted, this allows the property that has been [illegally acquired] to be sold by the Public Trustee.
- A proceeds assessment order is a pecuniary or financial penalty and, if granted, allows the value of the proceeds derived from illegal activity to be recovered. To obtain this order, the State must prove that the person engaged in serious crime-related activity in the past 6 years.
- An unexplained wealth order is a pecuniary order to recover the value of the person’s wealth if the respondent is unable to satisfactorily explain that it has been derived from a legitimate source. This requires the Supreme Court to be satisfied that there is a reasonable suspicion that the person engaged in serious crime-related activity at some time.
About the SDOCO scheme
Step 1: Restraint of property: A restraining order over all of a person’s property may be made if the Supreme Court is satisfied that a person has been charged with a qualifying drug-related offence. The restraining order has a life of 12 months and continues if the State makes an application to extend the order.
Step 2: Forfeiture: Once a person is convicted of the qualifying offence and a serious drug offence certificate is issued by the court, the State can apply for a Serious Drug Offender Confiscation order. If granted, the restrained property would be forfeited to the State and, where required, sold by the Public Trustee.