Role of Proceeds of Crime

Proceeds of Crime is a specialist unit within the Office of Public Prosecution (OPP) that conducts major confiscation litigation on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) under the Confiscation Act 1997. The objectives of this Act are:

  • to deter persons from engaging in criminal activity
  • to deprive persons of the proceeds of their crime and of property used in the commission of crime
  • to disrupt criminal activity.

The Act also serves to preserve assets of an offender for the purpose of compensation to victims of crime.

Proceeds of Crime solicitors seek to restrain and confiscate assets that have been used to commit a crime or have been acquired through criminal activity. This includes money, real estate and personal property such as cars and jewellery. We also seek to restrain an offender’s property in appropriate matters so as to preserve it for possible compensation to victims of an offender’s crime.

To do this, applications are made on behalf of the DPP under the Confiscation Act 1997 in Victoria’s County and Supreme Courts.

Proceeds of Crime solicitors include expert litigators in the fields of insolvency law, property law, building and construction law, family law, and equity and trusts.  Most of the team have backgrounds in commercial or civil litigation and criminal law, given that proceedings under the Confiscation Act 1997 are civil in nature. Proceeds of Crime specialists are active at the local, national and international level, building links to trace and confiscate proceeds of crime originating in Victoria.

Work with agencies

Proceeds of Crime works with three other agencies to restrain and confiscate property connected with criminal activity:

  • Victoria Police
  • Fisheries Victoria (Department of Primary Industries)
  • Department of Justice (Asset Confiscation Operations).

Victoria Police and Fisheries Victoria contact the DPP with details of alleged criminal activity and associated property. Once the DPP and Proceeds of Crime lawyers have examined the evidence and decided to proceed, an application is made to either the Supreme Court or County Court for a restraining order over the property in order to preserve that property for future confiscation to the State of Victoria or compensation to victims of crime.

The OPP is represented on the executive of the Criminal Assets Management and Enforcement Regulators Association (CAMERA), along with representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and the Isle of Jersey.

Civil trials

Anyone with an interest in restrained property can make an ‘exclusion application’ to the court that made the restraining order to try to protect their interest in property from being confiscated to the State of Victoria. To be successful, an applicant must satisfy the court, by way of affidavit evidence, of a number of legal requirements on the 'balance of probabilities'. Such requirements include the need to prove that the property was not used in, or acquired through, serious criminal activity, or if it was used, that the applicant was not, in any way, involved in the commission of the offence.

Proceeds of Crime lawyers thoroughly test all claims and if necessary, because the evidence does not support the applicant’s claims, contest them in a civil trial.

These civil trials often raise new or unusual legal issues, and may involve the Family Court, Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and other jurisdictions that make rulings on property disputes.