27 June 2014

The Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill was introduced in Parliament this afternoon. The Bill targets organised crime and contains anti corruption measures required if New Zealand is to honour obligations imposed by the UN Convention Against Corruption. The majority of UNCAC States Parties  have neither the legislative framework nor the enforcement capacity to deliver on the UNCAC. New Zealand has deferred ratification until there is a genuine ability to comply.

Once the statutory changes are in place, law enforcement agencies will be required to police international banking transactions, helping government to detect money laundering.  The Police Financial Intelligence Unit will be advised of all international wire transfers of more than $1000 and all physical cash transactions of more than $10,000. This strengthens existing reporting obligations.

Other changes mean that courts would no longer need to find that a person intended to conceal a transaction for them to be found guilty of money-laundering.  Police will be able to share personal information (names, fingerprints and criminal record) with other jurisdictions.

The seven year penalty for bribery and corruption offences involving public sector officials will be extended to the private sector.

Transparency New Zealand which has campaigned religiously for New Zealand to ratify UNCAC will soon be able to tick off a major element in its National Integrity Systems “Integrity Plus” assessment.  It is unlikely that there will be a substantial change in corruption prosecutions, but tools will then be available when breaches are uncovered.

The only States then not having ratified will be Japan and Germany, Sudan and Syria, Bhutan and Barbados.

Coincidentally, there is an imminent visit by a working group to assess measures by New Zealand to comply with the OECD Anti Bribery Convention – which did not necessitate empowering legislation as in the case of  UNCAC .