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Story Highlights

  • The Senate yesterday (November 10) approved amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to correct a referencing error in the principal legislation.
  • The Bill was amended to facilitate the substitution of the words ‘Commissioner of Lands’ for ‘Commissioner of Land Valuation’ and will give the Commissioner of Lands the power to undertake necessary action for the State to have possession over seized property.

The Senate yesterday (November 10) approved amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to correct a referencing error in the principal legislation.

The Bill was amended to facilitate the substitution of the words ‘Commissioner of Lands’ for ‘Commissioner of Land Valuation’ and will give the Commissioner of Lands the power to undertake necessary action for the State to have possession over seized property.

Piloting the Bill, Leader of Government Business, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said although the action was simple, it was of great importance to the Government’s commitment to take profits out of crime and to increase the efficiency of government processes.

“Among other imperatives, we must have systems in which the State works efficiently, so that our strained resources can be channelled most effectively,” she said.

Mrs. Johnson Smith informed that since being passed in 2007, POCA has been used to forfeit millions of dollars in assets, and these assets have been redeployed in numerous ways to support the Government’s fight against crime.

However, she noted that the Government’s ability to treat with forfeiture and monetisation of real property efficiently has been “stymied” by the two words.

Mrs. Johnson Smith indicated that section 9 (3) (c) of the legislation, which is being amended, currently gives the Commissioner of Land Valuation the power “to do or authorise the doing of anything necessary to obtain the registration of the Crown as owner [of the property]”, but is erroneous.

She noted that it is the Commissioner of Lands who should have this responsibility.

“The Commissioner of Lands is appointed under section three of the Crown Property Vesting Act and that Act sets out the powers of the Commissioner and the limitations of these powers. The most important point to note is that the Commissioner of Lands is to acquire, hold and dispose of land and other property of whatever kind,” she said.

Mrs. Johnson Smith said the naming issue has hampered the efforts of the Financial Investigations Division (FID), which is the Government’s asset-recovery agency.

She informed that there are a number of applications before the court for forfeiture of assets, but are there languishing, which has resulted in the asset-recovery agency finding other circuitous routes to transfer the property to the State.

“On a number of occasions they have to go back to court to obtain further orders so as to give the Registrar of the Civil Division of the Supreme Court the power to sign on behalf of respondents and convicted persons who are either unwilling or unable to sign the instrument of transfer,” Mrs. Johnson Smith said.

She noted that those actions were highly inefficient and counterproductive for a number of reasons.

The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on November 8.