· CAB powers to be strengthened; new legislation to target proceeds of crime
· New Special Crime Taskforce will focus relentlessly on persons involved in gangland activities
· Tánaiste to discuss transnational dimension of organised crime with international counterparts
31 May 2016
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, today discussed with her Government colleagues a range of additional measures to tackle organised crime.
Speaking directly after the meeting, the Tánaiste said: “We have seen unprecedented gangland violence in the last few weeks. However long it takes, whatever resources are necessary, we will face down the activities of these ruthless gangs.
“I want to acknowledge the great work of An Garda Síochána in dealing with this situation. My proposals are aimed squarely at helping them in this work.
“I intend to introduce legislative measures to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau to make it easier to seize assets and money from criminals.”
At its meeting, the Government approved the drafting of a Bill to provide additional powers to target the proceeds of crime. This will include providing the Criminal Assets Bureau with a power of administrative restraint which will allow it in certain cases to freeze immediately assets which are suspected to be the proceeds of crime.
The new legislation will reduce the threshold which applies under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 from €13,000 to €5,000. The prescribed sum under section 38 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 under which cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime may be seized will be reduced from €6,500 to €1,000 by way of a regulation.
The Tánaiste also notified the Government of her intention to bring forward proposals in the near future to enhance and update the legislative framework for the lawful interception of communications and for covert electronic surveillance, to combat the threats from serious and organised crime and terrorism.
The Tánaiste said: “I have asked An Garda Síochána and my Department to continue working urgently and closely together to see whether there are other changes in the law which might be made to address the reality of groups intent on carrying out a sustained series of killings while endangering the safety of communities.
“Next week I intend to meet my colleagues from Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands in relation to the transnational dimensions to organised criminal activity.”
A wide range of strong legislation to deal with gangland activities is in place. These measures include the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, which brought in provisions to respond to the reality of intimidation by criminal gangs. Other legislation introduced includes the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 with regard to covert surveillance, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 with regard to the use of weapons, the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 to enhance international cooperation and the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010.
The Tánaiste recently signed the rules of court as the final step necessary to establish a second Special Criminal Court, so that it can start dealing with the current backlog of cases.
The Tánaiste continued: “I want to support the work An Garda Síochána are carrying out on a daily basis to interrupt this cycle of violence. We have seen unprecedented ruthlessness from these gangs. We must ensure that the Gardaí have all they need to face down the threats from these gangs. I have made it clear again to the Commissioner that all necessary financial resources will continue to be made available.”
The Tánaiste announced that An Garda Síochána would be establishing a special crime Task Force, in cooperation with other agencies including the Revenue Commissioners and Department of Social Protection. The purpose of the Task Force will be to focus relentlessly on persons involved in gangland activities.
Concluding, the Tánaiste again stressed the Government’s determination to face down the gangs: “The message we are sending to these criminal gangs is that there will be no let up in the pressure upon them. Communities have been put in fear by the cycle of mindless killings we have witnessed. These measures are aimed at breaking that cycle and to bring home to these people that no-one is above the law.”
Note for Editors
Government approval has been obtained to provide for the following additional measures in relation to proceeds of crime.
CAB Power to seize property
To provide the Criminal Assets Bureau with the power to seize property quickly to prevent its removal or scattering prior to an application being made to the Courts under the Proceeds of Crime legislation for its freezing.
Between the instigation of an investigation into the proceeds of crime and the making of an application under section 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 there is potential for criminal assets to be dissipated.
It is proposed to provide for a power of administrative restraint in those circumstances.
This will provide for the seizure and detention of goods, monies, or instrumentalities of crime which a Bureau officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting represent the proceeds of crime. Such a power shall last for a specified period after which an application under section 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act must be made to the High Court.
Freezing and confiscation of property - threshold
Section 2(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 requires property to be of a value no less than €13,000 before an interim order can be made by the Court. The proposed amendment will allow the measures contained in the Proceeds of Crime Act to be triggered in circumstances where the value of the property is €5,000. The provision is being introduced in support of the work of the Bureau in targeting the proceeds of crime held by middle to lower level actors in localised organised crime activity.
Seizure of cash - threshold
To lower the sum prescribed for the purposes of section 38 (Search for, Seizure and Disposal of money gained from, or for use in, criminal conduct) of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Section 38 allows for the seizure and disposal of money gained from, or for use in, criminal conduct. Powers under this section may be exercised by members of the Garda Síochána or an officer of customs and excise where he or she has reasonable grounds for suspecting that it directly or indirectly represents the proceeds of crime or is intended by any person for use in any criminal conduct. S.I. No. 167/1996 Criminal Justice Act 1994 (section 44) Regulations 1996 currently sets the prescribed sum for the purposes of section 38 of the Act at €6,500.
It is proposed to reduce this limit to €1,000 to enhance the powers of An Garda Síóchána and the Revenue Commissioners in the seizure of cash amounts.