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Property Laundering (WA)


Property laundering is a strictly indictable offence that can only be dealt with within the jurisdiction of the District Court of Western Australia. The maximum penalty which can be imposed for the offence is a term of imprisonment of 20 years. This article outlines the offence of property laundering in WA.

Legislative definition of property laundering

Section 563A(1)(a) of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 sets out that a person will be found guilty of property laundering when it can be proven that they engaged directly, or indirectly, in a transaction which involved any money or property that was the proceeds of an offence.

Section 563A(1)(b) of the Criminal Code outlines that an accused person is guilty of property laundering if they:

  • brought property that was the proceeds of an offence into Western Australia; or
  • were in Western Australia, and received, possessed, concealed, disposed of, or dealt with any money or property that was the proceeds of an offence.

The prosecution will usually charge an accused under either section 563A(1)(a) or 563A(1)(b) of the Criminal Code. However, where multiple offences are alleged, an accused can be charged under both sections.

What are proceeds of an offence?

Section 563A(3) of the Criminal Code defines proceeds in relation to an offence as money or other property, that is derived or realised, directly or indirectly from the commission of an offence”. The offence of property laundering is not restricted to an offence which is committed contrary to the laws of WA but can include Commonwealth offences or offences in other states and territories.

563A(1a) of the Criminal Code outlines that for the purposes of deciding whether or not money or property is the proceeds of an offence, the money or property does not cease to be proceeds of an offence only as a result of either being credited to an account or being given away or exchanged for other property which is not the proceeds of an offence.

Defence to property laundering

Section 563A(2) of the Criminal Code sets out the only defence that is available to a person who has been charged with a property laundering offence. This defence is established if the accused person did not know and did not believe or suspect and did not have reasonable grounds to believe or suspect, that the relevant money or other property was the proceeds of an offence. It will not be sufficient to establish one element of the defence; all three elements must be established for the defence to succeed.

If an accused wishes to rely on this defence, they must make the court aware of this. The accused then has the onus of proving on the balance of probabilities that each of the above elements exists. In order for the accused to be found guilty, the prosecution will need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that one or more of the elements of the defence has not been established.

Penalty

Property laundering is a serious indictable offence which carries a maximum term of imprisonment for 20 years. However, the WA Supreme Court decision of State of WA v Zhuang [2021] WASCA 56 states that there are no established or ‘customary sentencing patterns’ for the offence but only principles to be applied at the time a person is sentenced.

Summary of property laundering

It is advised that any person charged with this offence seeks legal advice and representation before a plea is entered as it is a serious charge that can attract a lengthy term of imprisonment.

Should an accused person wish to plead not guilty to the offence and advance a legal defence it will need to be established that the accused person did not know and did not believe or suspect and did not have reasonable grounds to believe or suspect, that the relevant money or other property was the proceeds of an offence.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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