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€4.2 million of criminal proceeds returned to Exchequer as cryptocurrency seizures soar

The Criminal Assets Bureau seized €53 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2020.

Image: Shutterstock/Tupungato

MORE THAN €4.2 million worth of criminal proceeds were returned to the Irish Exchequer last year.

The Criminal Assets Bureau of the gardaí, which is tasked with investigating proceeds from criminal activity, yielded over €4.2 million to the Exchequer in 2020, its new annual report shows.

The District Court has currently restrained €4,528,374, £76,760 sterling and $13,000 Australian dollars held in bank accounts.

The total value of assets frozen increased by €54 million last year from €3.3 million in 2019 to €57.7 million.

“This unusual variance is largely due to a significant seizure of cryptocurrency in 2020 to the value of €53 million,” the report outlines.

The bureau returned €5.4 million to the Nigerian government after a memorandum of understanding between Ireland and Nigeria over theft of Nigeria’s public funds and international laundering of criminal proceeds of General Sani Abacha, who was president of the country during a military coup in the 1990s, and his son. 

€1 million was yielded to the Exchequer through the confiscation of assets of people who has been convicted of drug trafficking and where the court has determined that the offender has benefitted from drug trafficking.

Minister Heather Humphreys said that “even during the circumstances of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic”, the bureau helped to deter illegal activity by “freezing and confiscating assets identified as deriving from the proceeds of crime”.

She said the government is “fully committed” to supporting the bureau’s work.

“I welcome the agreement that was reached earlier this year between Minister Helen McEntee and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath to establish a new Community Safety Innovation Fund, to reflect the significant successes of An Garda Síochána and the Criminal Assets Bureau in disrupting criminal activity and seizing proceeds of crime by providing additional funding for investment in community safety projects,” Humphreys said.

“The fund will encourage and recognise the efforts of local communities on the ground to improve community safety based on their local experience and unique perspectives. Successful projects can then be shared across the country.”

The bureau raised €280,515.46 by seizing and auctioning goods that were purchased with proceeds of crime.

The assets sold were Bitcoin, watches, jewellery, designer clothing, designer footwear, designer handbags, luggage, and a Calidus Gyro aircraft.

Investigations into social welfare entitlement of people engaged in criminal activity found €466,676 of savings by terminating payments to individuals who were not entitled to them.

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Social welfare overpayments that were assessed and demanded amounted to €1,712,072.

€317,236 was returned to the Exchequer in 2020 through Social Welfare Bureau Officers.

Tax recovered by the bureau during 2020 amounted to €2.138 million from 64 individuals or corporations.

The bureau brought 31 new applications before the High Court under Proceeds of Crime legislation in 2020, the majority of which related to drug trafficking cases.

Other frequent crime types were thefts, burglary, fraud and money laundering.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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