In 2005, the government introduced its Criminal Proceeds and Instruments Bill, a draconian piece of legislation allowing the seizure of property from suspected criminals without any need for a conviction. The bill was withdrawn before ever receiving a first reading, but now its back, as the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill.
The core of the bill is unchanged. The aim is still to impose punishment without effective legal safeguards by allowing the government to seize
property that has been acquired as a result of unlawful activity, even though it may not be possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the owner has committed a specific criminal offence.
The bill still imposes Ahmed Zaoui standards of evidence, in which mere suspicion is taken as sufficient to impose significant penalties, and it still allows the wealthy to buy their way out of jail. It still requires those targeted to essentially prove themselves innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, and allows the government to use an absurdly low standard of proof - "reasonable cause to believe" to open the door to wide-ranging fishing expeditions in which the defendant is compelled to answer their questions. The only difference is that the new version also contains significant amendments to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 in order to allow New Zealand police to assist and cooperate with the asset seizures from foreign jurisdictions (which, given the corruption and injustice evident in the US system, is something I'm not sure we should be doing).
This bill represents a significant erosion of civil liberties which will almost certainly see the innocent punished. It violates fundamental norms of justice, such as the presumption of innocence and the prohibition on double jeopardy. Unfortunately, given the way parties in this country beat the law and order drum and pander to the "hang 'em high" brigade, we're likely to see more voices demanding that it be made even more draconian than raised in support of justice.