CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Minister Ford, Commissioner, Chief Constable, ladies and gentlemen I would like to welcome you all here today to the Annual Cross Border Organised Crime Seminar.
It is my great pleasure to officially open this, the 9th Annual Seminar, together with Minister Ford, Commissioner Callinan and Chief Constable Baggott.
I would first like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation to all of the agencies and organisations represented here today who play such a vital role in tackling organised criminality on a daily basis, North and South.
Your commitment and dedication in rising to the challenge posed by organised crime gangs and the threat that they present to our communities, continues to serve us well. I would like thank you all for the work that you undertake in often very difficult and dangerous circumstances.
Cross Border organised crime presents a challenge to all states and to all law enforcement agencies worldwide. Criminal gangs continue to exploit borders for their gain and to diversify in their activities so as to take advantage of new opportunities for criminal gain wherever they can be found. The Border between our two jurisdictions is similarly open to abuse, although to the credit of all the agencies, North and South, our joint responses have been founded on very deep levels of cooperation that have been built over time and which work well for our communities.
It is our local communities and our local businesses, which pay a heavy price for the activities of organised crime gangs. Issues that have been a common concern to both our jurisdictions for some time include fuel laundering, the trade in illicit tobacco and drug trafficking, all of which have the potential to have a devastating impact on our communities and our businesses - whether the damage done is through the loss of revenue, which could be used to support and develop communities especially in such economically challenged times, or though the harmful effects of drug addiction that lays waste to so many peoples lives.
In a cross border context, our response must be one that is founded on well established and deep collaboration with our neighbours - developing good cooperation and partnership approaches in tackling cross border criminal activity must continue to play a central role in our responses.
There are already very strong cross border links between the law enforcement agencies that are represented here today. I know that it does not stop at events such as this or at the end of a particular operation, it is a constant in your regular work.
I am particularly mindful of the considerable cooperation that has been achieved through the operation of the Cross Border Fuel Fraud Enforcement Group and the Cross Border Tobacco Fraud Enforcement Group. These Groups not only bring together law enforcement representatives from both sides of the border but also represent a good model of the multi-agency approach to tackling organised crime, with representatives from the revenue and customs services, the policing services and other agencies such as the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.
We have seen a number of successful operations in recent times arising from this cooperation. The work of the Cross Border Fuel Fraud Group has resulted in a number of groups, involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels, and who operate in both jurisdictions, being identified. These groups are now being specifically targeted for investigation by all the law enforcement agencies concerned. A number of current operations including ‘Operation Jutty’ and ‘Operation Crypt II’ have given rise to search operations being conducted simultaneously by law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border. As recent as September and November this year, search operations took place which gave rise to significant seizures of laundered fuel , as well as a number of arrests
This multi-agency approach whereby all of the agencies, working within their particular remit, bring their particular skills, expertise and powers to the task at hand has shown considerable success.
I also note the involvement of the Criminal Assets Bureau in the work of the Cross Border Groups that have been established. The Bureau itself is a multi-agency unit which has developed close cooperation with similar agencies in other jurisdictions, including the Serious and Organised Crime Agency in the context of cross border initiatives. I believe that this type of close cooperation between agencies is something that can set a standard at European level where a broader and more deeper level of cooperation in targeting the proceeds of crime could be obtained. I can assure you that one of my priorities is to continue to work at European level to improve arrangements for cooperating in seizing the proceeds of crime.
Of course, it is the case that organised criminal gangs continue to adapt their operations to take advantage of ever advancing technological developments. I welcome the fact that this year cybercrime features prominently on your Programme. Cybercrime is certainly an issue that will feature on all our work programmes for the years to come and it is truly an area where our borders present little challenge to criminal gangs. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Professor Joe McCarthy of the UCD Centre for Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Investigation for his participation in the Seminar.
The Seminar serves to further strengthen and deepen our partnership and cooperation. It provides an opportunity to discuss common issues and challenges. It also affords you with time to reflect on the successes achieved by your agencies through their investment in our joint collaborative efforts.
While many of these successes may not gain media attention, our communities most certainly feel the benefit of your actions. Every success no matter how small, sends a message that criminality will be rooted out at every level and offers greater comfort to those communities who are blighted with the destructive influence of organised crime.
This seminar provides an opportunity to continue to build inter-agency cooperation and to afford the agency representatives the opportunity to engage in open and frank discussions on the challenges they face and to devise real and practical responses.
In working together to counteract criminality, law enforcement agencies are ensuring as much as possible that criminals will not succeed in their endeavours.
In closing, I would like to thank the organising committee for all the hard work they put in to ensuring that your time here will be productive and interesting. As you are aware the committee consists of representatives from the Department of Justice (Northern Ireland), my own Department, An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs .
Finally, I wish you well in your endeavours over the course of the seminar.
23 November, 2011