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A freezing order can be made against an account with a financial institution if there are grounds to suspect the account balance reflects proceeds from a serious offence and a magistrate is satisfied that, unless the order is made, there is a risk that the balance of the account will be reduced.
If a person is suspected of having engaged in a serious offence, an application for a freezing order may be made to the court, ex parte (in the absence of the person to be affected by the order) in relation to an account with a financial institution. An application must be accompanied by a supporting affidavit stating the grounds for the applicant’s belief that either the balance of the account:
The court must be satisfied that:
However, the court does not need to find that a particular offence was or will be committed.
Once a freezing order has been made, written notice of the application must be given to the financial institution and each person in whose name the account is held. On a freezing order taking effect the financial institution must not allow the withdrawal from an account with the institution, except in the manner and circumstances specified in the order.
Contravention of a freezing order is a criminal offence punishable by a fine equivalent to 300 penalty units and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years.
A freezing order comes into force when a copy of the order is given to the financial institution and remains in force until either the end of the period specified in the order or when the court makes a decision on an application for a restraining order to cover the account, whichever comes first.
A freezing order, as originally made, must not specify a period of more than 3 working days; however an application may made to extend the period specified in the order if an application has been made to (but not decided by) the court for a restraining order to cover the account.
If you have been given written notice of a freezing order, it is essential that you seek legal advice immediately. The court has the discretion to vary the freezing order if satisfied that you cannot meet reasonable living expenses of yourself and any dependents, or any reasonable business expenses. The court also has the discretion to revoke the freezing order if satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so.
If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.