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High-Stakes Legal Showdown – Police pursue $11M ‘proceeds of crime’ claim over health and safety breaches

Summarised by Centrist

A chilling legal test case that could impact every NZ business is playing out, with police attempting to categorise health and safety breaches as “criminal activity” for the purposes of seizing company profits under organised crime laws. Could your business be at risk? 

In a trial slated for the High Court, police are seeking nearly $11 million from a business owner, alleging that the company’s health and safety breaches represent “significant criminal activity”, which makes the company’s profits “proceeds of crime”. 

The move is unprecedented, as it applies legislation traditionally aimed at combating organised crime and drug trafficking to a case involving workplace safety breaches.

The Herald’s David Fisher’s deep dive examines the case, which started with a 2015 incident at Salters Cartage Limited, in Wiri, South Auckland, where a worker was killed in a tank explosion.

Previous legal proceedings resulted in fines and home detention for business owner Ron Salter. Yet, in 2017, police returned with new charges alleging systemic non-compliance with health and safety and hazardous substances laws over several years. 

While the police have placed a freeze on four properties and the business itself, they have been required by the High Court to grant an undertaking. This means that should the police lose their case, they will be required to “compensate the respondents for any damage and costs sustained as a consequence of the restraining orders,” according to the High Court judgement.

The outcome of this case has implications for the future of corporate accountability and could redefine the boundaries between regulatory oversight and criminal prosecution in NZ

Read more over at The NZ Herald here and here (paywalled)

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