Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2013: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to present the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2013 to the House today. The primary purpose of this Bill is to amend the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 so as to align certain provisions more closely with international standards, in particular those contained in the recommendations of the financial action task force, FATF. The Bill also aims to amend other provisions to reflect the experience gained from the operation of the Act since 2010. The legislation that we have in place to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing is already robust, effective and of the highest standard. This Bill will merely strengthen some of these provisions.

I would ask the House for its co-operation in ensuring the speedy passage of this Bill so that it may become law by the middle of June. This will allow us to inform the FATF at its June plenary of the legislative changes that have been made to the existing statutory framework. It will also enable the introduction of other necessary legislative measures that I intend to bring as amendments to the Bill at subsequent Stages of our deliberations.

The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 which came into operation in July of that year represented a radical overhaul of the system that was then in place. The Act responded to changes in how crime is committed and how the proceeds of crime are laundered. We all know that some criminals are quite sophisticated in the way they operate and adept at recognising opportunities for exploiting financial systems for their own benefit. Money laundering by its nature can be a quite complex crime; it happens in countries throughout the world and does not respect national boundaries. It is a global phenomenon which can only be addressed in any meaningful way with by an international response.

On both the European and wider international stage significant work has been, and continues to be, carried out with the objective of preventing and tackling money laundering. The financial action task force, FATF, is an intergovernmental body whose purpose is the development and promotion of policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The FATF standards, known formally as recommendations, are applied by its 36 members. More than 180 countries participate in its efforts through a global network of regional bodies. As part of its mandate FATF carries out evaluations of member states' compliance with its recommendations. Ireland was evaluated in 2006 and placed in what is known as the regular "follow-up process". FATF reviewed the 2010 Act after its enactment and has suggested a number of technical changes to it. In February 2011 the Department of Finance, which represents Ireland at FATF, submitted an action plan to FATF identifying action to be taken, including legislative amendments, to resolve these issues. The amendments to the 2010 Act in the Bill are, in the main, aimed at giving effect to those technical changes so that Ireland can be removed from the "follow-up process" at FATF's plenary session in June. This is an important step in protecting Ireland's reputation as a good place to do business and a country which enforces international standards in preventing and tackling money laundering.

While the current Bill is essentially a technical tidying-up exercise, I would also like to mention the ongoing work at FATF and EU level which will require us to revisit this area in the coming years. In February 2012 FATF revised its standards with the aim of strengthening and protecting the systems in place to deal with money laundering and terrorist financing. The European Commission has recently adopted a proposal for the fourth EU money laundering directive which, in the normal way, will be the subject of discussions with member states with a view to adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The purpose of this proposal is to replace the third EU money laundering directive, strengthen the EU's defences against money laundering and to give effect to the revised FATF recommendations. The first meeting of the Council Working Group to consider the proposal takes place next week under the Irish Presidency of the European Union. I wish the Department of Finance officials involved every success in their work.

The Bill under consideration today addresses FATF concerns with the current legislation as evaluated under the old FATF recommendations. While it would be preferable to legislate for the new recommendations now, that cannot be done until the final shape of the fourth EU directive is known, as it is the fourth directive which will give effect in European Union law to the new FATF recommendations, and neither can we afford to postpone making the amendments to the 2010 Act contained in the current Bill. I am advised by the Department of Finance that any prolongation of Ireland's stay in the FATF "follow up process" beyond June of this year could have negative consequences for our international standing. The Bill, therefore, is an interim measure. It provides for some technical adjustments to the 2010 Act to enhance our compliance with current international standards, but we will have to review the systems we have in place once the proposed fourth EU directive is enacted, and I expect, inevitably, revisit the issue in this House.

I would like, nonetheless, to mention some of the key elements of the revised FATF recommendations and the EU proposals. They include a more focused risk-based approach, which will require countries to understand the money laundering risks they face, and to ensure the right systems are in place to respond to them. It will necessitate the focused use of enhanced customer due diligence, CDD, measures where there is higher risk. I will digress briefly to explain that customer due diligence refers to the types of measure which banks and other designated persons must apply to assure themselves of the identity of a customer and the nature of his or her business. People will be familiar with banks seeking some form of ID, such as a passport, and proof of address, as in a telephone bill, before opening an account. In relation to commercial customers, these measures might include details of the ownership of a company and information on its business model. I apologise for the use of abbreviations and acronyms, but I will save the House considerable time if I refer to CDD from now on instead of customer due diligence.

Other aspects of the new FATF recommendations and the EU proposals are as follows: more transparency in relation to ownership and control of companies, trusts and other legal persons; clarification of the rules on CDD to ensure a better knowledge of customers and a better understanding of their business; expansion of provisions dealing with politically exposed persons to cover national as well as international organisations; including tax offences as a predicate offence for money laundering; and more effective international co-operation.

I mention the new EU proposals so the House may be aware of them, but also because they touch on what are described as politically exposed persons, or PEPs, if I may be excused from using another acronym. I am conscious that PEPs in this context are different from PIPs in the context of the insolvency legislation. Today, we will have a mixture of both PEPs and PIPs, but that is nothing to do with money laundering. The 2010 Act already provides for PEPs who reside outside of the State. PEPs include senior judges, Ministers, Members of Parliament and senior officials. The three of us present in this House who are elected representatives are regarded as politically exposed persons. In that context it is not the exposure to the electorate that is necessarily envisaged.

PEPs and their immediate family members and close associates are subject also to a number of additional CDD measures. These measures include, for example, a requirement to provide a designated person such as a bank with information on the source of wealth and funds underpinning transactions. The Mahon tribunal in its final report recommended an extension of PEPs controls to domestic PEPs. In its response to the tribunal's report, the Government signalled its acceptance in principle of the recommendations in this area. However, as the proposed fourth directive contains proposals on the extension of controls to domestic PEPs such as ourselves, any Irish legislation on the issue will have to await the enactment of the directive to ensure that it is properly compliant with the finalised directive at EU level.

I will now outline the provisions of the Bill, which is a short Bill consisting of only ten sections. Section 1 provides that "Act of 2010" means the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010. As I mentioned earlier, the Bill amends existing legislative provisions in that Act. Section 2 provides for amendments to the definition of "occasional transaction" which is contained in section 24 of the 2010 Act. The current definition provides that an occasional transaction, in relation to a customer of a designated person, means a single transaction or series of transactions that are or appear to be linked to each other and the total amount exceeds €15,000. The rationale for this definition is to ensure that obligations in the Act such as CDD, which apply when there is a business relationship, also apply once a transaction or series of transactions reach this threshold. Section 2 provides for the lowering of this threshold in two situations, one relates to private members' gaming clubs where the value concerned in a transaction reaches €2,000. Lowering the threshold aligns the amount more closely with the approach taken in the third money laundering directive in relation to casinos, although I emphasise that these clubs are not casinos and such a change does not affect their status.

The second situation relates to wire transfer funds and section 2 provides for the application of the definition of "occasional transaction" in such cases when an amount of €1,000 is reached. The provision will also apply to beneficial owners. The current situation is that the threshold for "occasional transactions" at which customer identification, including identification of beneficial owners is required, is €15,000. While Council Regulation 1781/2006 on information on the payer accompanying transfers of funds requires money transmitters to obtain information on the sender, that is, name, address, account or other identification number, for any transmission of €1,000 or more, this does not include beneficial owners.

This amendment will provide that identification of customers and beneficial owners must be carried out for amounts of €1,000 or more in the case of wire transfer of funds.

Section 3 amends section 33(1)(c) of the Act of 2010. Section 33 forms part of Chapter 3 of Part 4 which deals with customer due diligence, CDD, and sets out the circumstances when CDD measures must be taken, for example, when establishing a business relationship with a customer where existing documentation or information may not be adequate. The purpose of the amendment in the Bill is to align the wording contained in section 33(1)(c) more closely to international standards. It will not result in any substantial changes to obligations in the Act. It provides that CDD applies prior to carrying out any service for the customer if the designated person has reasonable grounds to suspect that the customer is involved in, or the service, transaction or product is for the purpose of, money laundering or terrorist financing.

Sections 4 and 5 amend sections 34 and 36 of the Act of 2010 which relate to the application of simplified CDD. The Act provides that a designated person is not required to apply the CDD measures specified in section 33(2) if the customer or product is a specified customer or specified product, as defined in section 34. Such customers and products are considered to be at low risk for money laundering or terrorist financing; hence the approach that the full range of CDD measures are not required. However, it is important to note that the monitoring obligations still apply in such cases and simplified CDD cannot be applied if there is a suspicion of money laundering or terrorist financing or where there are doubts about the veracity or adequacy of information or documentation previously obtained. The purpose of the amendments is to make it explicit in the legislation that a designated person must take the necessary measures to establish that the particular customer or product is one to which such provisions can be applied.

Section 6 amends section 37 of the Act of 2010 which deals with politically exposed persons, PEPs. This provision applies to a PEP residing outside of the State who has been entrusted with a prominent public function at any time in the preceding 12 months. A designated person is required to apply enhanced CDD measures to such persons, which includes obtaining approval from senior management before entering into a business relationship and determining the source of wealth and funds. The amendments to section 37 contained in section 6 provide that such measures must also be applied to an existing customer who becomes a PEP. It also explicitly provides that enhanced ongoing monitoring must be applied to all PEP customers. I propose to bring forward some drafting and technical amendments on Committee Stage to clarify this provision further.

Section 7 amends section 39 of the Act of 2010 which deals with the application of additional CDD measures, that is, enhanced CDD, to a customer or beneficial owner where there is a higher risk of money laundering or terrorist financing. The current legislative provision provides for the option of applying enhanced CDD by the designated person. The amendment to section 39 provides that enhanced CDD must be applied by the designated person where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a heightened risk of money laundering or terrorist financing. This approach is also reflected in the amendments to section 54, which relate to policies and procedures.

Section 8 amends section 54 of the Act of 2010 which deals with the internal policies and procedures that a designated person must put in place with a view to preventing and detecting money laundering and terrorist financing. In addition to the general obligations contained in section 54, certain issues are specifically mentioned in order to highlight their importance and to ensure that action is taken on them. Section 8 provides for the inclusion of policies and procedures dealing with the additional measures to be taken in accordance with section 39, that is, enhanced CDD and also dealt with in section 7 of this Bill. It also includes a specific requirement for designated persons to implement policies and procedures on keeping their customers' documentation and information up to date and on potential risks arising from technological developments.

Section 9 amends section 71 of the Act of 2010 to extend the type of directions that a State competent authority may issue to a designated person, thereby increasing and improving existing enforcement powers. Section 71 currently provides that a State competent authority may, by notice in writing, direct a designated person for whom it is a competent authority to discontinue or refrain from specified conduct. The new provision will enable a State competent authority to also issue positive directions, that is, to direct a designated person to take specific actions or establish specific processes or procedures that, in the opinion of the State competent authority, are reasonably necessary for the purposes of complying with any specified provision in this Part of the Act. The new provision will also now provide that such directions may be issued to a class of designated persons. This power will enable State competent authorities to recognise and cater for the different compliance issues that might arise as between the different businesses or sectors for which they are responsible.

I will now outline a number of proposed amendments to Bill to be introduced on Committee and Report Stages. I intend to introduce a number of amendments to deal with the threat to life and property posed by explosive devices which make use of mobile communications technology in their construction or activation. As this issue is not directly related to money laundering, it may necessitate a change in the title of the Bill to something more general, such as the Criminal Justice Bill 2013. The purpose of these amendments will be to allow for a direction to issue to mobile communications service providers to cease service provision in a limited geographical area in order to prevent death or damage to property. The provision will contain safeguards to ensure that any interference with services is limited to the extent necessary to deal with the threat. Deputies might be interested to know that it is my understanding that this type of measure for which we intend to make statutory provision is what occurred in Boston this week, when two atrocities took place and steps were taken to prevent the use of mobile phones over a period of time. As these provisions are outside of the scope of the current title of the Bill, it will be necessary to amend the title of the Bill. In order that the full House will have an opportunity to consider these new elements of the Bill, I am advised that they should be introduced on Report Stage rather than during the Select Committee debate.

In addition to those proposed amendments, I hope that it may be possible to bring forward, as Committee Stage amendments, some provisions which were contained in the general scheme, as published last year. Because of the pressure on the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel arising from the increased burden of troika-related legislation, it was not possible to include them in the Bill as originally published. Their inclusion in the list of Committee Stage amendments is still subject to that caveat. These amendments include a provision to transfer the authorisation and monitoring of trust or company service providers, TCSPs, which are subsidiaries of credit or financial institutions to the Central Bank; an amendment to the existing record-keeping provisions so that records may be stored outside the State; an amendment to section 17 of the Act of 2010 dealing with court orders; an amendment to section 35 of the Act of 2010 related to the monitoring of unusual and complex transactions; and amendments to sections 104 and 109 dealing with the registers for TCSPs and private members' gaming clubs.

In conclusion, I look forward to hearing the contributions of Deputies during this debate and I hope that the House will support the passage of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.

My party will be supporting the speedy passage of this Bill, which is of great importance in the fight against criminality, both domestic and international. The Bill updates legislation passed in 2010 which transposed EU directives and UN conventions into Irish law. The aim of the Bill is to combat the efforts of criminals and their associates to conceal the origin of the proceeds of criminal activity or to channel money into terrorist activity. In light of the ongoing threats from dissident republicans and criminals across the country, the need to tackle money-laundering is of particular importance in this country. Criminal activity, including diesel laundering, racketeering and illegal tobacco sales, undertaken by a rump republican movement continues to present a serious threat to law and order in this State.

In conjunction with this Bill, gardaí must be better resourced in meeting this threat.

The Bill extends and clarifies the criteria laid out in the original Fianna Fáil Bill from 2010. A key element in the legislation is the application of customer due diligence, CDD, or measures on the part of the designated persons covered by the Bill, which include requirements to identify the customer and any beneficial owner and verify that identity. The CDD measures involved include identification and verification of customers and the monitoring of transactions and services. There are also obligations to report suspicions of money laundering to An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners, and to ensure that there are specific procedures and policies in place to reduce the risks of money laundering. The Bill directly touches upon sums of money being shifted through under-regulated private member gaming clubs and tightens oversight to these potential avenues for laundering. It has been well known for years that gambling and gaming has been an area where money has been laundered, with casinos and on and off-course betting venues being used. We must consider that in a broader context.

These measures will ensure that Ireland is fully compliant with its EU and UN obligations to tackle the scourge of money laundering and adapt changes based on the experience of operating the system since 2010. The ongoing serious criminal dissident republican activity is being fuelled by illicit funding through a number of revenues, such as the aforementioned illegal tobacco sales and the washing of diesel to be sold at a cost to the State. Unfortunately, the violent death of prison officer David Black and the bloody gangland feud in Dublin are the direct result of this financing, leading to a very detrimental effect on our international reputation, which is important in attracting foreign direct investment and securing much-needed employment. Anything that hampers our competitiveness and the view of the international community must be met head on, with gardaí having the resources to do so.

The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 transposed the Third Money Laundering Directive 2005/60/EC and its implementing directive, 2006/70/EC, into law. It also gives effect to certain recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, and the international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing body, which was established by G7 countries. The Act consolidates Ireland's existing anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws, which until then had been contained mainly in the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Significant reform has been required since in order to catch up with modern practices used by international criminal communities.

The Act increases the obligation on a wide range of designated persons, including credit and financial institution personnel, lawyers, accountants, estate agents, trust and company service providers, tax advisers and other with regard to money laundering and terrorist financing. That should be welcomed and we have seen over the years the operations of the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, with the offices of very professional people raided and documents seized in pursuing the ill-gotten proceeds of crime.

There is criminality associated with dissident republican activity and it is noteworthy that it has been mentioned by the US State Department, as we have mentioned to the Minister before. Its report on terrorist financing cited the major role of tobacco sales for laundering purposes and specifically mentions the role of the Real IRA. It is indicated that "the production, smuggling and sale of tobacco products, including genuine and counterfeit cigarettes, is a lucrative form of financing for organised crime, as well as terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Real Irish Republican Army". The CAB, which is the multi-agency body staffed from the taxation areas, Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection, as well an Garda Síochána, must play a central role in identifying money laundering activities and assets from groups such as the Real IRA and the newly emerged IRA alliance of dissident groups. These criminals and dissident republicans have been waging a campaign of violence against the people of Ireland that is funded by a series of money laundering processes, turning illicit funds to the purpose of fuelling terrorism.

Unfortunately, we have seen these activities spilling to the streets of our country, particularly in Dublin, which puts our country and capital in a bad light internationally. We must take every measure to fight this, and I am sure when this legislation is enacted it will go some distance to targeting the individuals who are damaging the image of our country by killing, maiming and robbing people and the Exchequer. In that way they are robbing every citizen in the country.

The Minister mentioned that he intends to introduce some amendments to widen the scope of the Bill, which is to be welcomed. The Minister mentioned the events in Boston, where it was reported that the communications network was shut down to avoid further bombs being detonated by remote telephone technology or mobile telephone. It would be a welcome move to introduce that here. We must consider other aspects as well, including the use of smartphones and other telephone technology by the prison population. Unfortunately, people manage to smuggle telephones into our prisons and recent court reports indicate that drug dealing is being done from prison cells, with people brought before the courts as a result. I was recently made aware of a disturbing case with a person serving a sentence and with a number of serious charges, including murder, before him, had been corresponding with people on Facebook. It is obvious that this individual has a smartphone available to him while he is in prison. We must use the opportunity presented here to consider the issue and put legislation in place allowing telephone companies to block signals in certain parts of prisons. We should avoid, as much as possible, leaving an opportunity for people in prison to operate telephones smuggled into the facilities.

With regard to the Bill's wider context, the Minister is aware that Retail Ireland has put a value of crime associated with all illegal activities around the country. It is not my figure or that of my party. It takes in digital piracy, illegal tobacco, counterfeit goods such as clothing and medicines, drugs and illegal diesel.

These cost the Exchequer and society in the order of €850 million per annum. Any crude cost-benefit analysis will show that if we invest more in State agencies such as the Revenue and the Garda Síochána, we will make inroads into that figure of almost €1 billion that is being taken out of the economy each year by criminals. By investing resources in State agencies, the figure will be dented and there will be a positive return for the country and the Exchequer.

The Minister mentioned the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. It was disappointing to hear the Minister announce yesterday that he would not now bring a proposal to Cabinet to recommence recruitment and training, as he had indicated at the AGSI conference. We have debated this many times. The force currently stands at 13,300. If the retirements continue at the current rate, we will be in a critical situation. The new roster is structured around a minimum complement in the force of 13,000 at a minimum. If numbers fall below that, we are into the serious situation where the roster is unworkable. The Minister knows the lead-in time for getting new recruits through the application, screening and interview processes and that training takes a long time, up to 18 months. When we factor that into the numbers leaving the force, we are heading for a dangerous situation.

This shows the Government did not have a plan B in the event of the Croke Park II agreement not being ratified. For Garda recruitment and training, there must be a plan A and a plan B as soon as possible. Connecting Garda recruitment to the agreement was not satisfactory given gardaí are tasked with the security of the State and if the numbers fall below the critical level, the security of the State is at risk.

I have raised this with the Minister before. He ran a recruitment campaign for the Defence Forces recently, with 600 new entrants joining. People ask me why there is recruitment into the Defence Forces but not into the Garda Síochána. I urge the Minister not to perform a U-turn on the announcement he made at the conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. It is high time recruitment recommenced, particularly given the importance of the role played by gardaí across the State, the importance of the fight against serious criminality, and the loss to the Exchequer resulting from that criminal activity of almost €1 billion per annum. I urge the Minister and his colleagues to rethink the recruitment campaign into the Garda Síochána outside of the context of the Croke Park Agreement.

Sinn Féin welcomes this Bill and will support its passage through the House. We must all continue to work hard to ensure it is made increasingly tough for those involved in criminality to channel their money in a way that allows them to live a lifestyle repugnant to any sense of justice.

For too long, many of our communities have faced the scourge of organised criminality and criminal gangs. Over the years we have had instances where governments have been slow to tackle this and unwittingly allowed criminals to operate all too easily. Dublin in the 1980s was in the throes of a massive drug epidemic. Limerick became a city people were afraid even to visit because it was referred to so often as "stab city", a massive disservice to the wonderful and resilient people of the city. The gangland killings on the streets of Dublin continue.

Sinn Féin has repeatedly criticised the failure of successive Twenty-six Counties Governments to seriously tackle the causes of organised crime across the State. Substantial cuts to front-line services, both statutory and community, in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities across this State can only benefit these criminal gangs. Also, cutting Garda numbers by 10% can only benefit these gangs. The previous Government and the existing Government have operated and are operating, respectively, a policy of removing resources from gardaí to the point that we may fall below the unacceptable threshold of 13,000 in numbers. I noted the Minister's comments that the Croke Park II agreement vote will cause a delay in recruitment, but I appeal to the Minister and the Government to resolve this as soon as possible.

Often much of the criminality narrative and reporting has centred on drugs, but this is not the only type of criminality facing us. We must also tackle diesel laundering and cigarette smuggling head on. Retail Ireland has pointed out that this recession has led to an increase in fuel smuggling and the sale of smuggled cigarettes. The impact of these activities has been very serious for our domestic economy. Last year Retail Ireland reported that 12% of all diesel sold in Ireland was illegal, 19 oil laundries were detected and closed, and 690,000 litres of oil were seized. These are massive figures which are having a huge effect on our economy and also hurting the communities in which they are taking place. Almost 25% of the Irish cigarette market is sourced from the black market and in 2011, 109 million illegal cigarettes, with a value of €45.9 million, were seized.

The Exchequer is losing €861 million annually because of illegal black market activity and theft. We are already seeing a struggling retail sector as a result of the economic downturn and now we are seeing it suffer again because of the sale of counterfeit and smuggled goods. Retail Ireland has stated that sales have fallen by over 30% since the start of the recession and thousands of jobs have been lost. It is crucial that this sector is not further squeezed by illegal criminal activity.

We must take on board some of the recommendations that have been put forward in this area. Retail Ireland, when addressing the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, offered to put money towards the scanners that could be used to detect illegal goods concealed in large containers that are coming into our ports. This is a simple, cost-effective action that can be taken to tackle this type of smuggling head on with fast and effective results. Retail Ireland also raised the open selling of counterfeit cigarettes in markets and the need to deploy Garda resources to police this. Mobile scanners can be used to detect these counterfeit tobacco products. The presentation by Retail Ireland not only outlined the scale of the problem but outlined solutions, and I commend it to the Minister.

We must be more serious about white collar crime. The Minister will have been alarmed, as I was, to learn that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, including journalists from institutions as eminent as The Guardian, the BBC and The Washington Post , had uncovered a huge network of offshore accounts and tax avoidance schemes. It is estimated that, globally, €16 trillion to €25 trillion is lost from states as a result of this tax avoidance.

People in this State were identified as playing a role in that. In this State historically we have seen accountants and solicitors who have colluded in this practice and encouraged clients to participate in this criminality, denying the State badly needed revenue for hospitals, school and communities.

There was the spectacle of the Ansbacher scandal a number of years ago. How many went to jail over that scandal? Repeatedly, the people are exposed to white-collar crime which has an even more devastating impact than many of the cases that go through the circuit and district courts every week, but yet very few serve real time and pay the price for that. The deterrent needs to be much stronger. There has been plenty of forewarning of offshore accounts and tax avoidance. When will we deal with that? When will we demand full accountability from banks and all the professional classes to ensure that this stops once and for all? It is a global challenge, but Europe could lead the way with further amendments to legislation on these matters.

As a party, we call not only for international co-operation on matters such as this, but also for a strong all-island policing policy. This is not merely an all-island issue. We need to tackle this internationally, and as strongly as possible. There can be no hiding place for criminals to squirrel away their illegally gained moneys and we must make sure of this, through international co-operation and co-operation on this island between our two policing services. In the recent past I had the privilege of meeting Assistant Garda Commissioner Kieran Kenny who is responsible directly for that relationship and the co-ordination between the PSNI and the Garda, and I was reassured by the messages I received from him and the practical examples of co-operations. I commend both police services for that and I hope to see more stronger co-operation in tackling the scourge of criminality on this island.

I take this opportunity to re-pledge my party's support for the Criminal Assets Bureau on its significant successes. The CAB is a vital instrument in combatting gangs, going after what these people hold most dearly - their money. According to its latest figures, the CAB has seized more than €133 million of illicit profits from criminal activity since its foundation in 1996. I very much welcome this, but Sinn Féin would like to see some changes to how this money is used.

My party has made a number of attempts - I, personally, have made one attempt - to bring forward a Private Members' Bill which would ensure that the money seized is ring-fenced for and reinvested in the communities worst affected by this type of activity. It was ruled out of order because of the cost to the Exchequer rule. I disagree with that. Our proposals would not be a cost to the Exchequer and would be cost neutral, but there it is. I would encourage the Minister to look at that. The money seized should be pumped into drugs task forces and community projects supporting communities affected by drugs crime and other crimes. Approximately, €14 million was seized solely under the proceeds of crime legislation between 2006 and 2010, and we have asked the Government to retain this money for community development purposes. This is separate to the money that is seized by CAB for revenue and social welfare fraud. It is the money taken from drug dealers and criminals who are profiting from the communities they are terrorising.

The Government continues to cut community funding in general and the current legislation allows for all moneys collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be returned to the Exchequer in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005. The funds are then paid into the Government's Central Fund, from which the Government draws for expenditure. If the Government had the political will to fund these much needed community organisations, it could easily do it by amending the Proceeds of Crime Acts. Sinn Féin calls on the Government to introduce this mechanism to fund local drugs task forces and community groups in the worst affected areas.

Before I conclude, I would bring the Minister's attention to a couple of issues. Some of the previous money laundering Bills have had knock-on effects for some ordinary citizens inadvertently caught-up in criminal investigations. Can the Minister reassure me that if a person is cleared of any suspicion here, this will be the case internationally? We have seen situations where a person may have had money placed in his or her accounts by accident, arose suspicions, been cleared and then had it held against them while travelling. We need to ensure that the right procedures are taken to ensure data protection and consistency are followed. These laws also place a greater onus on small businesses to pour more resources, often with a financial impact, into identifying customers. We need to ensure that in any legislation such as this that we are passing the House does not contain anything that has the potential to make life difficult for normal citizens and small businesses. Can the Minister assure me that where this Bill means a small-business owner must take steps to further establish a customer's identity and there is a financial burden, the small business will be compensated for this? I suggest that some of the money seized may be used to make provision for businesses affected in this way.

I reiterate my support and that of my party for this Bill. However, I seek reassurance from the Minister on those issues to which I referred before it reaches the next Stage.

Debate adjourned.