Australian law encourages theft

Glenn Reynolds highlights the story of an audacious case of identity theft: Australian con artists used a hacked email account to sell a house they didn’t own.

What I find most remarkable about the story is this comment:

The buyers of the first house are allowed to retain the house under Australian federal law. This law is designed to protect innocent third parties who are not responsible for questionable practices or illegal activity. They conducted a transaction in good faith and are not to be held accountable or fiscally responsible for the action.

The gentleman in question, Mr. Mildenhall, will be compensated from a fund set aside by the government to settle the dispute.

If this commenter is to be believed (and no one has contradicted him), Australia has decided that buyers of stolen property get to keep it. I find that amazing. Another commenter puts it well:

Having a law that “protects innocent 3rd parties” when they buy what amounts to stolen goods seems like a bad idea. If the purchaser loses some/all of their money when stolen property is reclaimed and returned to the original owner, then purchasers have an incentive to make sure they are purchasing legally-obtained goods from a legit seller. Australian law seems to encourage everyone to remain as ignorant of the circumstances as possible, so that they can buy things on the sly.

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