Report shows continued growth in new cases brought before the Court
€3.9m returned to Exchequer from Proceeds of Crime, Social Welfare overpayments and Revenue Legislation
Nearly €65m in assets frozen
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has today welcomed the Annual Report of the Criminal Asset Bureau (CAB) for 2019. The report was submitted to the Minister by CAB and brought to the Government today by Minister Flanagan.
Welcoming the annual report, Minister Flanagan said:
The Criminal Asset Bureau continues to play an important role in deterring illegal activity by freezing and confiscating assets identified as coming from the proceeds of crime. The Bureau is an example of international best practice in law enforcement and demonstrates how we, as a country, can face up to our shared challenges.
Using their statutory powers, in 2019 bureau officers returned in excess of €3.9m to the exchequer, including:
· Around €1.6m under the Proceeds of Crime legislation
· €2m collected under Revenue legislation and
· Over €0.3m recovered in Social Welfare overpayments.
Other successes by CAB in 2019 include:
· The freezing of nearly €65m in assets, a significant increase on the previous year, due in the main to the granting of a freezing order over cryptocurrency to the value of €53m.
· Revenue Bureau Officers assessed a total of 50 individuals and companies under the provisions of the Tax Acts, resulting in a total tax figure of €11.7m. Tax demands were served to the value of €5.8m.
· In relation to Social Welfare investigations, a number of individuals had their payments either terminated or reduced, resulting in a total savings of €2.3m.
The report highlights 31 new applications brought before the High Court under the Proceeds of Crime legislation, which marks a period of continued growth in new cases. The majority of these actions were taken against assets gained from the proceeds of drug trafficking, followed by actions relating to frauds and thefts of various categories.
Commenting on the increased number of new applications being brought before the High Court, Minister Flanagan continued:
Criminal gangs are becoming more sophisticated in concealing their assets, which has necessitated changes in policing. CAB’s success in bringing a record number of cases before the Court in 2019 demonstrates their commitment and determination to their mission, and ability to counter the changing strategies of criminals. I would like to thank Pat Clavin for his leadership of the Bureau during this period and I wish him every success following his recent appointment as Assistant Commissioner in An Garda Síochána.
The report further details the Bureau’s continued development of Divisional asset profilers, to ensure that there is a focus on local criminal targets throughout the State for action by the Bureau. CAB trained 105 profilers in 2019 in Garda Divisions throughout the State, building a 473-strong network by year end.
Under legislation introduced in 2016, the threshold for invoking the Proceeds of Crime Act was reduced from €13,000 to €5,000, significantly extending CAB's reach. Not only are CAB targeting the assets of higher-tier criminals, they are also having an impact by intervening early with mid-level criminals, with the aim of inhibiting their progression and addressing local community concerns.
The Minister concluded, saying that:
CAB’s achievements in 2019 continue to demonstrate its continuing value to law enforcement in Ireland.
I am pleased that CAB continues to carry out their important work during this period. Bureau officers continue to carry out searches, while abiding by Covid 19 protocols. PPE is currently being sourced to ensure interviews and other vital activities are uninterrupted. I would like to wish CAB continued success under their recently appointed Chief Bureau Officer, Michael Gubbins.
The 2019 report can be accessed here - www.justice.ie/en/JELR/CAB_Annual_Report_2019.pdf/Files/CAB_Annual_Report_2019.pdf
Notes for Editors
CAB is an independent statutory body, established by the Criminal Assets Bureau Act, 1996. Its staff are drawn from An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and the Department of Justice and Equality.
The Bureau’s statutory remit is to carry out investigations into the suspected proceeds of criminal conduct, to identify assets which derive from criminal activity, and to confiscate those assets and the proceeds of illegal activity. These actions are underpinned by the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 to 2016, and Social Welfare and Revenue legislation. CAB’s annual report sets out the actions taken by the Bureau throughout the year in targeting the proceeds of crime.
The Criminal Assets Bureau Annual Report 2019 will shortly be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, as required by legislation and published on the website of the Criminal Assets Bureau https://www.cab.ie/
The Bureau was formally established On the 15th October 1996, by the enactment of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act. The objectives and functions of the Bureau are set out in sections 4 and 5 of the act and may be summarised as:
1. Identifying and investigating the proceeds of criminal conduct;
2. Taking actions under the law to deny and deprive people of the benefits of assets that are the proceeds of criminal conduct by freezing, preserving and confiscating these assets;
3. The taking of actions under the Revenue Acts to ensure that the proceeds of criminal activity are subjected to tax;
4. Investigating and determining claims under the Social Welfare Acts.
The legal basis for these actions are the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 to 2016, and Social Welfare and Revenue legislation.
The allocated budget (Justice Vote) for CAB for 2019 was €9.853m with actual expenditure of €9.860m. At 31 December 2019, CAB had 85 staff, with an authorised staffing level of 93. The Bureau obtained approval for increased resources in 2019 with an increase in Social Welfare Bureau Officers from six to eight.
In 2019, CAB actions resulted in, in excess of €3.9m being returned to the state:
· €1.559m returned under Proceeds of Crime legislation
· €2.026m collected under Revenue legislation and
· €0.324m recovered in Social Welfare overpayments
The majority of these actions were taken against assets gained from the proceeds of drug trafficking, followed by actions relating to frauds and thefts of various categories.
Actions under Proceeds of Crime
· In total €1.559m was transferred to the exchequer under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
· The value of assets frozen during the year was €64.9m, compared to €8.4m in 2018, an increase due in the main to the granting of a freezing order over cryptocurrency to the value of €53m. There were 326 individual assets frozen including financial assets, property, vehicles and jewellery.
· The Bureau brought 31 new proceeds of crime proceedings before the High Court in 2019, the largest number of new cases commenced by the Bureau in a single year (30 such applications in 2018).
· In total €2.026m was recovered from individuals and corporate entities.
· Assessments of individuals and corporate entities under the provisions of the Tax Acts resulted in a total tax figure of €11.7m
· Tax demands (inclusive of interest) of €5.8m were made.
Social Welfare investigations
A number of individuals had their payments either terminated or reduced, resulting in a total savings of €2.3m, broken down as follows:
· Recoveries: €0.324m was returned to the Exchequer
· Savings: cessation or reduction of payments to individuals, leading to a saving of €0.442m
· Overpayments: €1.6m assessed and demanded.