Written Answers. - Criminal Assets Seizures.

Michael Ahern

Question:

63 Mr. M. Ahern asked the Minister for Justice the value of the assets seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau since its formation; the number of staff who are attached to the bureau; and the categories of staff employed. [9096/97]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the following property has been the subject of various orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996: £289,000 in cash, one house set in flats, value £164,000, one apartment, value £60,000, six houses, one equestrian centre, three motor vehicles and one motor vessel. Monetary values are given for two properties for which sales have been agreed but it is not possible at this stage to determine the realisable value of the other properties with any degree of accuracy.

The bureau is staffed by 31 personnel and this number will increase as required. Staff may be drawn from the Garda, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Welfare but for security and strategic reasons it would not be appropriate for me to give any breakdown of the categories of staff employed.

Desmond J. O'Malley

Question:

64 Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Justice whether she will consider a change in the law to provide that the seized assets of criminals be allocated to a designated drugs rehabilitation fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9196/97]

It would be contrary to standard public accounting procedures to transfer particular revenues to particular purposes. All revenues are taken in by the Exchequer and such allocations as are necessary are made through the normal Estimates process. Of course such moneys as are necessary for purposes of the kind referred to by the Deputy will be provided in the normal way through relevant Votes.

The primary purpose of the provisions contained in the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996, and the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, in relation to criminal assets is to deprive criminals of the assets gained or acquired through criminal activity. Obviously any assets gained by the State can be utilised for any form of public spending.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996, at least seven years must elapse from the time property is subject of an interlocutory order under section 3 of the Act before the High Court may make an order that will result in funds accruing to the Exchequer. The State, therefore, cannot depend on using such assets to fund any project until at least seven years has elapsed, i.e., from now until 2003.

Under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, which I as Minister brought into operation, assets can be frozen upon arrest of a person and confiscated as a result of prosecution. This procedure is clearly more likely to yield assets to the State much sooner and clearly I would like to see the realisation of criminal assets being used for the criminal justice system.

The funding of treatment centres which is a matter for the Department of Health is something that this Government provides at present and will continue to make the resources available over the coming years. It would be a backward step if we were to depend totally on provision of resources based on the uncertain and variable revenue sources coming from seizures.
As Minister for Justice, I am constantly seeking and receiving from central Exchequer, resources required for my resolute and determined actions against crime.