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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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Tough new laws will target drug dealers' cash and allow for closer electronic surveillance

The threshold for seizing cash from drug dealers is to be dramatically lowered, it’s planned.

Frances Fitzgerald speaks to reporters this morning.
Frances Fitzgerald speaks to reporters this morning.
Image: Sam Boal

THE GOVERNMENT IS promising new laws to give gardaí the power to seize more assets and to engage in further electronic surveillance.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced the plans today as a response to what she termed as “unprecedented gangland violence”.

Under the plans, the threshold for seizing assets believed to be the proceeds of crime will be dramatically lowered from €6,500 to just €1,000.

Asset-freezing legislation used by the Criminal Assets Bureau will also be strengthened so that the threshold is reduced from €13,000 to €5,000.

This ‘mini-CAB’ system is part of a series of measures aimed at targeting lower-level drug dealers. It comes in the wake of an intensification of gang-related violence affecting the north inner city area of Dublin in particular.

CAB will be given powers to freeze assets while an investigation is ongoing. Fitzgerald said that new laws will have to be passed to give power to these plans. 

Surveillance

Also included in the proposals is a commitment to pass new laws to allow for the closer surveillance of suspects.

A statement from the Department of Justice says the minister told the Cabinet that she will be bringing forward more details on this in the “near future”:

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.

“I want to support the work the Garda Síochána are doing day-in, day-out with some success in interrupting this cycle,” justice minister Frances Fitzgerald said this morning, ahead of the Cabinet meeting.

Dublin crime gang raidsSource: Niall Carson

Today, An Garda Síochána confirmed the plans to establish of a 'special crime task force' which will be coordinated by the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan said this task force will adopt an "intelligence-led, focused and targeted approach" in respect of individuals and groups involved in organised crime.

The primary focus will centre on targeting the proceeds of crime. O'Sullivan said "in recognising the significant impact  and damage caused to communities by organised crime, that these new measures will assist in enhancing the service we provide to the public in tackling and disrupting organised crime at all levels".

Mini-CAB

Asked earlier whether the new thresholds for the seizure of assets amounted to the setting up of a 'mini-CAB' Minsiter Fitzgerald responded:

"Yes it is effectively, it's making sure that you have zero tolerance in relation to drug dealing on the streets.

I want to strengthen the power of the CAB so they can seize assets more easily from criminals.

The Tánaiste also said that she will be meeting with colleagues from Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands as part of plans to target the assets of criminals.

Her commitment to extending resources in order to tackle gangland crime was welcomed by the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents more than 10.500 rank and file members.

President Ciarán O'Neill said his organisation is confident those resources will yield results.

It’s a positive step forward by the Government and demonstrates a commitment to tackling these issues. We very much hope that this is the beginning of a sustained long term investment in An Garda Síochána.

CAB

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) was set up in 1996 in response to the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin. It gives gardaí the power to seize the proceeds of crime, social welfare overpayment and tax underpayment.

CAB seized more than €10 million from suspected criminal activity in 2014.

More than €3.8 million was returned to the Exchequer.

In addition, 10 new proceeds of crime were brought before the High Court with freezing orders put on assets with a collective value of €6.76 million.

Father Peter McVerry, the well-known inner city-based campaigner, insisted the current measures to tackle gangland violence weren't working.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this morning, he said that the violence stemmed from the area's decades-long drug problem.

"Ultimately the solution to it is to invest very heavily in drug treatment facilities to enable young people to escape from the drug culture when they chose to do so," McVerry said.

The lack of opportunities for 13 to 16-year-olds needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, according to the campaigner. McVerry said he was hopeful that if offered more educational opportunities, young adults would move away from a life of crime.

Updated 3pm

With reporting from Daragh Brophy, Rónán Duffy and Michelle Hennessy.

Read: 'One Veronica Guerin, her murder, her sacrifice, should be enough'

Read: Criminal Assets Bureau to sell this Rolex watch on eBay

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Roisin Nestor

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