Peter Costello

Media Releases

Commonwealth DPP to undertake HIH Criminal Prosecutions

NO.058

COMMONWEALTH DPP TO UNDERTAKE HIH CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS

The Treasurer, Peter Costello and the Attorney General, Daryl Williams today announced the Government's decision that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) will undertake criminal prosecutions relating to the financial collapse of the HIH Insurance Group. This will include criminal prosecutions under the Corporations Act and the Crimes Act (NSW).

A key task of the HIH Royal Commission was to inquire into the possibility of breaches of law and whether possible criminal or other legal proceedings should be referred to the relevant agency. In releasing the Commissioner's report on 16 April the Government immediately referred all possible breaches of the Corporations Act to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and breaches of the NSW Crimes Act to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Government sought the advice of the CDPP and ASIC and has accepted their recommendation that the CDPP is the most appropriate and effective body to undertake HIH criminal prosecutions. The powers of the CDPP are extensive and provide the best opportunity for the efficient prosecution of HIH cases. The CDPP has the power to prosecute offences against the Corporations Act, to grant indemnities to witnesses, to appeal against sentences and other matters following completion of the prosecution and, under arrangements with the States, to prosecute State offences.

A specialised unit will be established within the CDPP and will be staffed by people experienced in the prosecution of complex commercial cases. The unit will be dedicated solely to the pursuit of HIH matters. The specialised unit will be assisted by two Senior Counsel and two Junior Counsel retained from the bar who will advise on matters referred to the CDPP by ASIC. A taskforce has already been established within ASIC to examine prosecutions and prepare briefs for possible proceedings. The Government expects these two agencies to work closely on investigating and prosecuting possible breaches arising from the failure of the HIH Insurance Group.

The Government intends to allocate additional funding of $14 million over three years to the CDPP to undertake criminal prosecutions. ASIC has already been provided with additional funding of $17.5 million in 2003-04 and $10.7 million in 2004-05 to undertake this task.

The Government has also ensured that ASIC is able to efficiently and expeditiously investigate possible breaches of the law by legislating to transfer the records of the HIH Royal Commission to ASIC. The legislation maintains key protections that currently attach to the Royal Commission records, such as the protection of individuals against self-incrimination and rights to claim legal professional privilege.

CANBERRA
3 July 2003

Contact:
Niki Savva Treasurer's Office 02 6277 7340

Carina Tan-Van Baren Attorney-General's Office 02 6277 7300, 0419 423 965

 

3 Jul 2003

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