TALLINN - A host of new laws will go into effect when the calendar changes and the new year begins, the Justice Ministry reported.
The ministry said many of the new laws were designed to encourage more services to go online, a trend that will help move Estonia closer to a predominant Net-based bureaucracy.
For instance, business registries will be shifted online, allowing anyone to check the ownership details of all registered businesses at the Web site www.eer.ee.
Until now, business searches were accomplished over the counter at a government office.
The new service, however, will give consumers and other businesses instant and free access to the business register.
For businesses, it will become easier to register and change company names and directors by using the online database.
Rather than the customary five-day wait, a business registration could take as little as two hours.
Other new laws set to go into effect will target organized crime. Police will have more power to confiscate material possessions that are suspected of being purchased with ill-gotten money. Specifically, the new law will allow police to confiscate the objects, even if they are not in the name of the suspected criminal.
A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said this was designed to stop criminals from hiding proceeds of their crimes under the names of relatives or associates.
"Until now, if a car or a house was in the name of a person's mother or partner, it could not be touched. But the new law will allow it to be confiscated, if the person cannot prove where they obtained the money to purchase it," the spokeswoman said.
And criminals on the other end of the justice system 's those being released from prison 's will also be affected by a new law as of Jan. 1.
The date will signal the start of an electronic monitoring program to track prisoners who have been given an early release.
Prisoners will be fitted with electronic bracelets that send a signal to a central database to allow authorities to immediately know of their whereabouts.
The government authorized the use of the bracelets for up to 300 prisoners a year, but the Justice Ministry expects only about 100 prisoners to be fitted with the devices by March 2007.