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Shatter to use presidency to lobby for CAB equivalents across EU

Alan Shatter is hoping to use Ireland’s term leading the Council of the EU to encourage a pan-continental network of criminal asset bureaux.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, Alan Shatter, hopes to use Ireland’s forthcoming presidency of the European Union to seek the expansion of an EU-wide system of confiscation bodies similar to Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau.

Shatter is hoping to use Ireland’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, which will see him chairing monthly meetings of the EU’s various justice ministers at the Justice and Home Affairs Council, to seek the creation of similar bodies around Europe.

Britain has already followed Ireland’s lead, setting up the Assets Recovery Agency in England, which recently merged with the UK-wide Serious Organised Crime Agency. Shatter is seeking a similar model to be followed across the continent.

“Ireland, as one of a small number of member states who have adopted a non-conviction based model for the confiscation of proceeds of crime, in the form of the CAB model, has much to offer in this regard,” a Department of Justice spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said the Irish model was an effective one, due to its multi-disciplinary structure and firm legal backing, and that Shatter therefore wanted to promote the idea at a European level.

“Of course, it remains fundamentally a question for the individual Member States as to whether they would wish to incorporate such a model into their respective legal regimes,” she said.

“However, the Minister has taken steps to encourage his European colleagues to take the opportunity to consider the CAB model, particularly in the context of mutual recognition of our respective regimes.”

Of course, it remains fundamentally a question for the individual Member States as to whether they would wish to incorporate such a model into their respective legal regimes.

However, the Minister has taken steps to encourage his European colleagues to take the opportunity to consider the CAB model, particularly in the context of mutual recognition of our respective regimes.

Could avoid need for EU-wide body

Shatter believes that having a network of CAB-style bodies across Europe could also make it easier for countries to recognise confiscation orders issued in other EU member states.

This could provide a multi-national way of enforcing confiscation orders through the EU and therefore make it easier to recoup the proceeds of organised crime, without the need to set up a new EU-wide agency – a move which could otherwise require an amendment to European treaties.

The minister believes that increased cooperation at international level “is core to the targeting of proceeds of crime and a strong mutual recognition framework which would also allow for the recognition of freezing and confiscation orders issued through civil proceedings”, the spokeswoman said.

The plans could run up against longstanding legal hurdles, however: Irish law on the seizure of criminal assets is based on the British model, which in turn is derived from centuries-old principles derived from the seizure of pirate property where a conviction could not be immediately secured.

Such models are rare in continental Europe, however, where the idea of seizing assets without a prosecution is much more novel. However, the 1988 Vienna Convention endorsed the principle of using confiscation as a method of deterring and fighting crime, meaning the system has broad international acceptance, though not widespread use.

Read: Criminal Assets Bureau takings now over €133million

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Gavan Reilly

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