KNOWN criminals flaunting unexplained wealth will have it confiscated under tough new laws targeting organised crime.These figures would lose their assets even if there was not enough evidence to charge them with a criminal office, the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, said yesterday.He said organised crime cost Australia at least $15 billion a year and inflicted substantial harm on the community, business and government. But in many cases, people who arranged crimes and profited from them were able to avoid prosecution.Mr McClelland said that unlike existing confiscation orders, new “unexplained wealth orders” would not require proof of a link to a specific crime.To ensure those whose assets were confiscated were able to seek legal representation, they would be eligible for legal aid, Mr McClelland said.Legal aid commissions would be able to recover legal costs incurred by a person with restrained assets directly from the Confiscated Assets Account. The Commonwealth would recover the fund from the person who received the legal aid, up to the value of the restrained assets.Once it becomes law, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill will allow law enforcement agencies in undercover “controlled” operations to do some things that would otherwise be illegal in order to obtain evidence of a serious offence.”For example, a shipment of drugs might be allowed to pass through border control in order to follow the trail to the buyers or distributors of those narcotics,” Mr McClelland said. “There are appropriate limits on this. Controlled operations do not authorise conduct likely to cause death or serious injury, or involve the commission of a sexual offence.”There would be strong mechanisms to ensure those involved were publicly accountable.The law will also increase the range of investigations in which phone taps can be used.Mr McClelland said law enforcement agencies needed the powers to defeat the sophisticated methods criminals used to avoid detection.
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