Police have seized more than $1 billion in assets from alleged criminals

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A Lamborghini Huracan, valued at $450,000 was seized following an investigation into alleged money laundering. The supercar is among $1 billion worth of assets restrained since 2009. Photo / Supplied

More than $1 billion in alleged criminal wealth has been frozen in New Zealand since a powerful law targeting organised crime came into effect just over a decade ago, the Herald can reveal.

Expensive real

The data revealing the restrained proceeds was obtained under the Official Information Act.

Before the law change, the police needed to secure a conviction to strip ill-gotten gains from underworld figures. To their frustration, this often failed to catch the leaders of criminal gangs who limited exposure to prosecution by keeping their distance from day-to-day operations.

Detective Inspector Craig Hamilton, the national supervisor for criminal proceeds cases, told the Herald that asset seizure has proven to be a powerful tool in the fight against organised crime.

“Organised crime is all about money,” Hamilton said. “But money is also the biggest vulnerability for organised crime.

“By taking their money, we’re trying to take their power and influence. This is about crime prevention. By taking their money, we’re stopping them from expanding their criminal enterprise.”

The vast majority of the proceeds-of-crime cases that the police have pursued related to drugs, gangs and organised crime. Recently, they have increasingly been going after the proceeds of other alleged crimes including fraud, tax evasion, exploitation of slave labour, movie piracy and even a workplace fatality.

In several notable cases, police have worked with overseas law enforcement agencies to restrain assets in New Zealand that were allegedly derived from criminal activity in other countries.

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