Monday, July 17, 2006

The New Zealand government has withdrawn its Criminal Proceeds and Instruments Bill from Parliament, putting on hold its plans to introduce a non-conviction-based asset forfeiture regime.

The bill was introduced to Parliament in June last year, and was removed from the Parliamentary Order Paper in the last week, before it had even received a first reading vote.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Justice refused to give a reason for the bill’s withdrawal, saying only that there were “a couple of procedural issues that need to be dealt with”.

The bill would establish a non-conviction-based asset forfeiture regime, which would allow the government to confiscate the assets of those suspected of involvement in serious crime. Suspected criminals would be required to prove on the balance of probabilities that their assets were legally acquired or else forfeit them to the crown. No criminal conviction would be required.

The scheme has attracted criticism from both sides of the House, with the Green Party calling it “an affront to the principles of justice and law”, and the National Party demanding a much tougher regime. Given the stated positions of parties on the bill, the most likely reason for its withdrawal is that the government does not have a majority to pass it in its present form.

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