Thursday September 5 2013
– The scheme confiscating assets from Victorian criminals is operating poorly and hampering efforts to deter criminal activity, state Auditor-General John Doyle has said.
In a report into the asset confiscation scheme tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Doyle said a failure to use investigative tools efficiently had undermined the system, with poor planning and capacity and capability weaknesses creating problems.
Victoria Police and other authorities confiscate the proceeds of crime in part to disrupt illegal behaviour.
“The scheme is not operating as effectively or efficiently as it should,” Mr Doyle said. “Its ability to deprive people of the proceeds of crime, and to deter and disrupt further criminal activity, is hampered by weaknesses in the way that assets are identified for confiscation, and by how the scheme is governed.”
The Auditor-General found the scheme had failed to implement recommendations and commitments made over the past 10 years to improve the scheme’s governance and management. There were “unclear objectives, a lack of planning or effective oversight, a lack of clear accountability and leadership”.
Mr Doyle recommended the Victoria Police Criminal Proceeds Squad refocus investigations on profit-motivated, serious and organised crime.
At present, up to 60% of the squad’s work relates to victims of crime, even though it says its focus is on the “upper echelons of organised crime”.
“While victims’ compensation is a purpose of the act, it is unclear why [the Criminal Proceeds Squad] is performing this function! at least to the current extent. This work is time-intensive and anecdotally results in few victims pursuing the offender in court,” Mr Doyle said. “The focus on this type of work detracts from what CPS should be focusing on – profit-motivated, serious and organised crime.”
Shadow attorney-general Martin Pakula said the Auditor-General had “effectively given the Napthine government a major slap over its failure to make improvements to the scheme”.
“Victoria’s police and prosecutors need support from government if they are to be successful in stripping criminals of their ill-gotten gains, disrupting criminal enterprises and deterring criminal activity,” Mr Pakula said. “The Napthine government’s asset confiscation activities are weak – allowing organised crime figures to hide their assets and profit from other illegal activities.”
The report also called for better risk management and identified that many problems with the scheme were due to the absence of a performance framework.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said police had accepted all the recommendations.
– Richard Willingham