I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 47 together.
There was not an expression of annoyance about this matter by the Swedish Foreign Minister who represented the Swedish Prime Minister at the Tampere Summit; the Swedish Prime Minister did not attend the summit because of a family bereavement. As was made clear by the Taoiseach in this House on 2 November 1999, the Swedish authorities did not raise this case with any representative of the Irish Government at the summit nor have they made any complaint to the Irish authorities at any stage about the matter.
The request for mutual assistance in this case was received from the Swedish authorities on 22 January 1998. The request did not mention a money laundering offence or a money laundering investigation nor was there any question of freezing an account; in fact, the evidence in the District Court disclosed that there was not any money left in the account at the time the request was made.
The case as outlined in the request by the Swedish authorities was one of "gross breach of trust and gross embezzlement" concerning Trustor, an investment company. The request sought information concerning transactions on a Bank of Ireland account in the name of the Selrex Corporation.
The request was fully executed and the information sought was furnished to the Swedish authorities on 11 June 1999. The request was processed, as in the case with all such requests, in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions and the conventions to which Ireland is a party. Apart from my Department, the other bodies involved in handling the Swedish request were the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Chief State Solicitor's office, including counsel, the Attorney General's office, the Garda Síochána and the District Court. This is a new area of work for all of these bodies as the legislative framework was put into effect less than three years ago.
Apart from the time taken by the agencies here, time was also taken up by the need to revert to the Swedish authorities on two occasions; first, for additional documentation to meet our legal requirements and, second, for additional information that counsel required before the case could be brought before the court.
It is usual in cases where the matter is of particular urgency, for a requesting authority to specify a deadline and to follow up the request either by 'phone call or letter. That did not happen in this case nor was there any reference by the Swedish prosecutor to expediting the case when responding to the inquiries raised by the Irish authorities. In sending in the request the prosecutor referred to it as being urgent, but that is par for the course in these cases. Where deadlines are given, the authorities here go to great lengths to meet them and I am informed they have been successful thus far in meeting all deadlines set by requesting authorities.
As part of international mutual evaluation procedures, two independent bodies of experts have commented favourably on Ireland's arrangements for mutual assistance with regard to money laundering.
A report by an EU team of experts of August 1999 on Ireland's arrangements for mutual assistance was highly complimentary, while recommending some streamlining of procedures. These recommendations have been accepted and are in the process of being implemented. This exercise will help in speeding up the time taken to execute requests. An evaluation report on Ireland in October 1998 by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering was also highly complimentary.
There is concern at European level with reducing delays generally in the operation of the system for mutual legal assistance. The EU mutual evaluation process, to which I have referred, is part of the response to that concern and Ireland is fully committed to its successful outcome and to the improvement of judicial co-operation.