Australia to double jail terms for white-collar crimes

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia said on Sunday (Oct 21) that jail terms for white-collar crimes would be doubled and penalties against misbehaving companies sharply increased in a further fallout from a scathing inquiry into the finance sector.

A Royal Commission was called by Canberra late last year as public anger against Australian banks grew following a string of scandals involving allegations of misconduct and fraud.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said his government would introduce the legislation into Parliament next week to protect consumers.

"These significantly strengthened sanctions overhaul Australia's penalties for white-collar crime," Mr Frydenberg said in a statement, adding that some sanctions had not changed in more than two decades.

"(It will) bring our penalties closer to those in other leading international jurisdictions."

Maximum criminal penalties for individuals would be doubled to 10 years' jail while firms could face fines of more than A$9.45 million (S$9.2 million).

Under the proposed reforms to civil sanctions, individuals would be hit with more than A$1.05 million in fines and companies up to A$210 million.

The nearly 1,000-page interim report from the Royal Commission found that banks, insurers and other financial houses had put "the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty".

The report added that greed appeared to be the motivation.

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