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Government to combat white-collar crime

Govenrment to combat- Judith Collins.jpgThe growing menace of white-collar crime must be dealt with an iron hand and there must be a faster system of investigation and prosecution, Police Minister Judith Collins has said.

She said as a first step, the country’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was being restructured to give it better teeth to get into matters expeditiously and efficiently.

“The SFO was once the premier law enforcement agency for investigation and prosecution of serious and complex financial crime.

“But it suffered years of political neglect under the last Government,” she said, addressing a meeting of lawyers at the office of Minter Ellison Rudd Watts at the Lumley Centre in Auckland on September 3.

She said reconstruction of SFO would send the right signals to the criminals of the economic variety.

There is a pressing need to boost supervision of financial services with a robust system of enforcement of systems and procedures and investigation and prosecution of fraud, she said.

“There are still many cowboys who erode the confidence of New Zealanders in investing in our productive industries. The SFO has an important role to play in maintaining our reputation as a safe place to invest and do business,” she said.

The latest KPMG Fraud Survey found that despite checks, balances, audits and controls, companies in New Zealand lost more than $72 million to fraudsters during the first six months of the current year.

Fraud continues to be a major problem in medium and large industries in New Zealand but many of them ignore the alarm bell, the firm’s Fraud Barometer covering the period from January 1 to June 30, 2010, said.

The total amount defrauded rose sharply to $72 million during this period from $22 million recorded during the corresponding period in 2009.

“In total, there were approximately $100 million of large frauds in New Zealand in 2009. These figures show that there has been no let up in large frauds continuing to occur and brought before the New Zealand courts,” the Survey said.

Ms Collins said her Government would support the office of SFO working closely with receivers, the business community, professional organisations and others in ensuring a corruption-free New Zealand.

“Benefits to the economy should not be the prime motivator of law and order policy. Public safety should always be the priority of any justice system,” she said.

Ms Collins said there was little doubt that high levels of crime constricted economic growth; hence, strategies that deliver safer communities can significantly reduce the cost burden on the State and the people were more important.

She cited the illegal street race in Christchurch as an example of how good legislation and good law enforcement could lower costs and economic impact of crime.

She said the law enforced last year provided the authorities the right to confiscate and crush the cars of repeat street-racing offenders.

“In a similar vein, reducing crime will create the certainty for New Zealand to achieve growth, raise our standard of living and build a better and safer future for all of us,” Ms Collins said.

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Police Minister Judith Collins

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