Celebrity criminals and the proceeds of crime – why crime doesn’t pay
Celebrity criminals such as Schapelle Corby may be offered huge amounts of money to tell their story in a TV show or book, but the law forbids them to profit from their crime.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, if Corby or any other criminal derives any benefits that are associated with their crime, such as payment for a tell-all interview, film or book, authorities can step in to seize the income.
However, the benefits don’t have to be in cash. They can be in any form that results in some commercial benefit flowing back to the criminal from the proceeds of crime.
Confiscation of “tainted property” used to commit a serious offence
Seizure of profits from a crime doesn’t have to wait until a conviction. Some confiscation orders can be imposed on property deemed to have been used to commit a serious offence – such as a car used to carry drugs – called “tainted property” in law.
In 2006 Corby co-wrote a book, My Story, giving an account of her life in Bali’s Kerobokan prison. The publisher paid the family around $270,000 for the book and an article published in New Idea magazine.
Director of Public Prosecutions recovers significant sum following court battle
However, the Commonwealth stepped in and after a lengthy court battle recovered $128,000 from Corby as the amount she was deemed to have benefited from the sale of her story to the publisher and media outlet. Her family members, who have not been charged with any crime, were allowed to keep their share of the money.
In the first case of its kind in Australia, the Director of Public Prosecutions successfully argued that Schapelle Corby had personally benefited from the deal and almost half the payment had flowed to her. (See Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) v Corby  QCA 58.) The Queensland Supreme Court also ruled that the DPP could also seize any future payments made to her sister by the book’s publisher.
It’s okay to tell but not to sell
Schapelle Corby is now free and certainly has the right to tell her story, just not the right to sell it, or at least have the benefits of her crime flow directly to her. Under the federal law covering proceeds of crime, confiscated money goes into consolidated revenue.