Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government has announced new reforms aimed at dismantling organised crime in the state through new police powers to target unexplained wealth and the use of dedicated encrypted devices used by criminals to stay under the radar.
The new legislation will extend police powers to target and confiscate unexplained wealth, stop and search people for unexplained wealth, as well as introduce new powers to confiscate unlawfully acquired assets of major convicted drug traffickers.
In addition, it will become an offence to both possess dedicated encrypted devices and refuse police access to the contents of them.
Acting Police Commissioner Dave Hudson said on Thursday that these reforms will assist police in getting ahead of the game in the fight against organised crime.
“Historically, unexplained wealth legislation has really been dependent on us proving a serious drug-related or akin offence and the unexplained wealth falling out of that,” he said.
“What these changes today and these announcements today allow us to do is conduct dedicated unexplained wealth investigations and reverse the onus of our focus and the culpability of the criminals which we target to actually go after their money first and see what criminal acts fall out of those investigations.”
Hudson said that police probably only catch the dumb criminals, the ones that are most active and draw attention to themselves, whereas there are other criminal elements that may only be active in the community for two weeks a year, facilitating drug imports, for example.
For the rest of the year, they live off their illegal gains, “and I think we’ve all seen evidence of that, for the cars they drive, the lifestyle that they live, the money they [flaunt] around without any identified source of income,” Hudson added.
“What these changes will allow us to do is to target those individuals, to target the smart ones, to target the ones who have historically got away with these crimes.”
In response to a question, Hudson confirmed that a 20-year-old driving a $500,000 Lamborghini would raise suspicion, and police “would certainly be talking to the driver of that vehicle, gaining their details”.
Prohibition of Dedicated Encrypted Devices
Deputy Premier and Police Minister Paul Toole said that encrypted devices are not your ordinary iphone, but are dedicated devices used to orchestrate crimes such as smuggling firearms and drugs, money laundering, and planning murders.
He noted that the apps used can’t be detected on the normal telecommunications network, but are rather networks criminals are using on the “dark web” to communicate with each other.
“That’s why we have prohibition orders. That’s why it will be an offence to carry an encrypted device,” Toole said, adding that police will also have the power to demand access to the encrypted devices.
“In some cases, we can get those devices, but they actually refuse to give access to them,” he said. “It will be an offence to actually refuse access to those devices, and they will come with penalty terms, as well.”
Meanwhile, acting police commissioner Hudson added that the reforms will give police the power to search premises of those suspected to be in possession of a dedicated encrypted device.
Legislation underpinning the new reforms will be introduced when the NSW parliament convenes in September.