29 Oct 2009

New police unit to aim at gang assets

6:38 pm on 29 October 2009

Police are establishing a new dedicated unit of fraud investigators to target and seize the money and assets - such as farms, houses, cars and boats - of organised criminal gangs.

Police Minister Judith Collins says the Assets Recovery Unit will be at the "sharp-end of the fight" against organised crime and the drug methamphetamine.

The 22-strong unit will double the capacity of the police to investigate the proceeds of crime.

It will operate under legislation which comes into force in December, giving police broader powers to seize assets obtained illegally by gangs without the need for first obtaining a conviction.

Ms Collins says over the past decade gangs have evolved into sophisticated criminal businesses and make tens of millions of dollars a year from drugs.

Ill-gotten, says Minister

She says gang bosses have grown rich, with their ill-gotten gains including farms, houses, cars and boats.

Ms Collins says money seized will help fund methamphetamine rehabilitation, youth aid programmes and other initiatives that prevent young people joining gangs.

Commissioner Howard Broad says the police already have a list of crime bosses they will target.

Mr Broad says organised crime is a major problem in New Zealand.

He says the police welcome the new tools they will have at their disposal, and are ready to use them.

Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope says officers can only guess at the full extent of the money and assets gained through organised crime.

Mr Pope told Checkpoint the methamphetamine trade alone is estimated to be worth a billion dollars this year.

He says $32 million is restrained under existing legislation and police believe new legislation which gives them broader powers will significantly increase that amount.