The NSW government will introduce laws to confiscate unexplained wealth from criminal gangs and ban the use of encrypted devices as part of long-waited reforms to combat money laundering and organised crime.
A snap cabinet meeting late on Wednesday night agreed to the new measures, designed to cripple the finances of crime networks, stopping criminals from profiting from their actions and incapacitating them financially.
The new powers allow for the confiscation of unlawfully acquired assets of major convicted drug traffickers and expand powers to stop and search for unexplained wealth.
Senior ministers have been working on new laws to deal with proceeds of crime and unexplained wealth since last year, when secret briefings from top-ranking police warned that organised crime in NSW was out of control.
Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith warned cabinet ministers and senior public servants in December that organised crime was rampant and anti-organised crime laws in NSW were abysmal.
Days after that briefing, Premier Dominic Perrottet was also provided with the same damning update from Smith, a senior government source with knowledge of the conversations has confirmed.
That month, Attorney-General Mark Speakman and then police minister David Elliott began working on laws to tackle unexplained wealth. The work has continued under new Police Minister Paul Toole.
Perrottet said the new powers would help police infiltrate criminal networks.
“Organised crime is all about drug supply and money – and to truly shut it down we need to shut down the flow of dollars that fuels it,” Perrottet said.
“These reforms will better arm law enforcement agencies with the powers they need to confiscate unexplained wealth and create new offences and tougher penalties for those seeking to launder money derived from criminal activity.
“Organised crime and the technologies that criminals use are always changing and evolving, and these reforms will put our state in the strongest position to deal with these insidious crimes.”
Deputy Premier and Police Minister Paul Toole “organised crime in this state is on notice”.
“If you think you can hide the ill-gotten gains of crime, you are wrong. If you think you can avoid detection by using encrypted devices, you are wrong,” Toole said.
“We know these encrypted devices are being used to plan serious crimes like drugs and firearms smuggling, money laundering and even murder.
“These reforms will make it an offence to possess these kinds of devices and allow us to better target high-risk individuals from using them to orchestrate crime.”
Legislation will be introduced when parliament returns for the spring session.