The Corruption and Crime Commission this week resolved its first unexplained wealth matter with the Supreme Court making an unexplained wealth declaration for almost $630,000 and ordering the confiscation of cash and assets.
Just days later, on 21 October 2020, the Supreme Court also made a criminal benefits declaration against former Government executive, Mr Paul Whyte, arising from 530 corruption charges and a property laundering charge he is currently facing.
Following the charges for corruption crimes and illegally gaining a benefit to himself and others estimated at more than $22 million, assets were immediately restrained by a freezing order.
The criminal benefit acquired by Mr Whyte, to the exclusion of others who benefitted from the commission of his confiscation offences, is assessed as and declared to be just over $11 million.
The Commission has now been successful in obtaining a criminal benefits declaration and confiscation orders prior to Mr Whyte being criminally convicted and sentenced in a superior court.
The assets confiscated include two Mosman Park properties with a combined estimated value of $4.26 million, his interest in a government superannuation fund of $1.4 million (with taxes and fees to be deducted from that amount), his interest in his father's deceased estate which includes a Scarborough property, and other monies arising from his interest in horses.
The Commission's work in this matter led to State regulation changes to make it clear that a WA public officer's GESB superannuation entitlements are liable to confiscation when involved in the commission of offences that can be proved to a civil standard. This is in addition to provisions in Commonwealth regulations.
The Supreme Court order and regulatory changes are the latest chapter in a long-running Commission investigation initiated by former Commissioner John McKechnie in mid 2019.
The first unexplained wealth matter resolved by the Corruption and Crime Commission was referred to it last year by the WA Police Force after an investigation by the Organised Crime Squad into the activities of three persons, which did not lead to criminal charges.
The Commission used its full powers under the Criminal Property Confiscation Act 2000 and the Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003 to conduct thorough inquiries, resulting in the resolution of the case.
The Court orders include a requirement that the names of the three persons involved and some other particular details are not made public.
The assets – including cash, a Ferrari motor vehicle and Rolex watches – had been frozen since September last year.
Disrupting organised crime is one of the Commission’s primary objectives and freezing assets as part of unexplained wealth investigations is one mechanism to achieve this objective. There are currently $13-15 million in assets which are subject to Supreme Court freezing orders by the Commission, relating to eight investigations underway.
The identification and investigation of unexplained wealth matters are complex and lengthy. They involve considerable forensic accounting, legal and investigative capabilities within the Commission, and in some instances, have local, national and international elements, all of which must be pursued.
Early resolution of any matter not only delivers a return to the State, but avoids the need for costly and time-consuming Supreme Court trials.
As of 30 September 2020, the Commission had received 93 referrals from Commonwealth and State agencies, WA Police Force, the public and from the Commission's own activities.
The Commission’s work in relation to unexplained wealth investigations has, since 2018, been managed within its existing resources. With results and benefits now being realised, this will inform a review required of the Commission by September 2021 to secure additional resources to continue and expand this complex but important area of its operations.
Marie Mills: (08) 9421 3600 or 0418 918 202
Louisa Mitchell: (08) 9421 3600 or 0434 308 208