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Feb 24, 2014

Money seized on reverse onus of proof

Proceeds of crime legislation has become popular with governments across the world since the idea was first mooted.  The idea was originally based on the principle of seizing assets that can be proven to have been acquired by criminal activity.
Since then, the scope has been expanded to meet an ever-growing appetite by government for more revenue.
Gradually it became the normal thing to seize all assets of a criminal even if the crime committed did not yield anything like the value of the accused’s assets, then was set to encompass any profits from media or book sales after release from prison.
In Australia, this is not enough for the government deeply in the red, which now demands that reverse onus of proof be applied, in order to dispense with the tedious requirement of proving that a crime has been committed in order to take what you have: 
NINE jetsetting Russians have been ordered to explain the source of almost $30 million stashed in Gold Coast bank accounts. 
The accounts have funded a global splurge on fur, jewellery, designer clothes and luxury holidays at the Great Barrier Reef, Thailand, Dubai and Italy. 
Australian Federal Police have frozen the fortune through the District Court in Brisbane as suspected proceeds of crime. 
Federal agents found the money was ``entirely incompatible’’ with the meagre income the Russians declared on their Australian visas. 
But friends told The Sunday Mail the Russians were behind major legitimate businesses in their homeland and were preparing to invest in Australia. … 
... The AFP told the District Court there was ``no evidence available to the AFP that the source of the funds is legitimate’’. 
``Nor is there any evidence to AFP that the intended purpose of the funds is legitimate,’’ the court was told.  
``The extremely large amount of money is entirely incompatible with the declared income of the nine Russians.” …
… A friend of the Russians told The Sunday Mail the group had a series of major businesses in Siberia, including a popular brand of ice cream. 
``I don’t know any Russian who declares their real income when they come to Australia,’’ the friend said.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a significant rise in the number of Russian millionaires, some legitimate, some not. 
There is no way of telling whether these people are legitimate or not, but it is apparent that the Federal Police have not been able to establish that any crime has been committed, let alone the nature of such an action. Had they done so, the action they have taken would be based on that crime, not on the rather nebulous claim that the origin of the money could be tainted.
Such actions have no basis in a rational justice system, nor should they exist in a free society.

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