The Financial Services Commission (FSC) has been given power by Parliament to enter and search properties which it believes may be operating in contravention of the Securities Act.
A bill which amends the relevant law was last week passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It provides for the commission to, without notice, apply to a resident magistrate for a warrant authorising a named officer, with or without the presence of a constable, to enter and search any building, receptacle or place specified in the warrant and make seizures.
The framework, however, says the magistrate is restrained from issuing the warrant unless he/she is satisfied on information under oath that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the premises for which the warrant applies relates to an investigation.
Items seized are to be returned to the person or entity from which it was seized within 45 days, or to such longer period as allowed by a judge of the Supreme Court.
The FSC has also been given power to make statements in the interests of the securities market and the public interest.
The regulator has also been given power to share information with an overseas securities regulator who requests information.
Justice Minister Mark Golding said the provision is an important one, given the transnational nature of money-related crimes such as fraud and money laundering. Among the information that can be shared with overseas regulations is telephone data, which is intercepted under the Interception of Communication Act.
The commission, however, is not allowed to collect voice information or listen in on telephone calls.
Golding, as well as opposition Senator Dr Nigel Clarke, agreed that a provision for the commission to enter into out-of-court settlements with persons who have committed certain breaches is an important tool in its arsenal.
The bill provides for the commission to require monetary payments for breaches and require persons to instruct the payment of compensation to any person on whose behalf it has instituted an action.
The commission also has the power to seek the intervention of the court if the person fails to honour the agreement.