Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, line 25, after “body” to insert “(including a member of a local authority)”.

This is an amendment to paragraph (j) of the definition of "Irish official" in section 2 of the Bill. This amendment is to provide explicitly that members of a local authority are included in that paragraph. Concerns were raised on Committee Stage about the wording here. I said on the occasion that I felt that public officials were covered by way of a more general description in the Bill. I was satisfied that there was sufficient reference to local authority members in the previous wording. I accept what Deputies Ó Laoghaire and O'Callaghan had to say. I do not see any harm - in fact, I see merit - in clearly stating that this section applies to that category of officials, as suggested on the occasion by Deputies O'Callaghan and Ó Laoghaire. I hope that this amendment will assuage the Deputies' concerns as evidenced in the earlier part of the debate.

I welcome the amendment put forward by the Minister. We will support it. As the Minister indicated, this is a proposal that we put forward on Committee Stage. I am now on a very technical reading of the Bill as it was drafted. When one looks at Schedule 1, under "Irish Public Bodies", in paragraph (j), there is a reference to "a local authority". However, I think because of history and the importance of local government in Ireland that it is appropriate that local authorities should be spelled out expressly in the interpretation section of the legislation. I welcome what the Minister has done.

The Minister has taken on board the point we made. It is fair to say that there have been issues in the past with corruption that have centred around local authorities. It is important to acknowledge that, similar to other public representatives and elected persons, we should identify members of local authorities specifically, and I thank the Minister for taking the point on board.

I note section 2 says it relates to members of a local authority. Irish public bodies, as we know, is an umbrella movement loosely representing all local authorities and operations of local government. It took some time for the Minister to accede to the request to have a separate mention for local authority members. It rings hollow because local authority members and local government have been decimated by the previous Government with all the attacks on and the banishment of local authorities as we knew them. In my county, there were five or six of them. It has happened to town, urban and district councils such as the borough council for Clonmel which used to be and may still be the biggest inland town in the country. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to hold a plebiscite to see if they could be reinstated, if the public wanted them, on a no-cost basis. I have not heard a word about it since the Minister closed the books that evening, almost two years ago now. There has not been a mention.

The acceptance by the Minister of this amendment to the Bill is certainly welcome because in the times when I was a member of the local authority, I did not feel that Irish public bodies was that caring and nurturing of local authority members. One could get lost in the system and the whole cumbersome nature of IPB and its dealings with Government, Ministers and officialdom at a national level. It was a national organisation, as we all know, but sometimes it did not represent its members.

It is important for any legislation to address any person who is elected to a local authority. Local authorities are now nearly a third of a Dáil constituency.

They deserve to have their place rightly recognised but they have been stripped of most of their powers. They are nothing like they used to be. They were tighter districts before the amalgamation and everything else. That was certainly the case in Tipperary. As I stated, the councils are now nearly a third the size of constituencies. There are two towns in my local borough district: Cahir and Clonmel. There is a huge difference between them. Clonmel is a town of 20,000 people, while Cahir only has a population of 4,000. They each have different services and expectations of members. The Minister is making faces at me as if to say that I am rambling but I am not. Local authority members must be respected. They have been overloaded with huge districts, a lack of recognition and a lack of respect by many officials in many counties. A workshop is held behind closed doors before every meeting members attend to discuss matters. The manager must get what he or she wants and any member who does not agree with that will feel the brunt of it. Representation is very difficult. That is not what democracy is about. We must have respect for those put themselves forward and get elected. Many notable men and women served as councillors long before we were around. It was not about remuneration but, rather, public service.

Fine Gael disbanded town councils. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to borough district councils. Many local authority members would like to go back and serve on the districts which were previously in place. They would do so without remuneration but, rather, just for the sake of having some say and coherence in the overall planning, running, maintenance and image of their town and district. A borough used to be only the town and its immediate environs, and its boundaries would extend less than a mile outside the town. Boroughs now extend 30 miles one way and 25 miles the other way. The images of many towns, and the towns themselves, have been completely diminished and they are suffering badly as a result.

I welcome that on this Stage the Minister accepts that local authority members will be specifically mentioned in the Bill. They have been written out of too much legislation and that is happening more and more on a daily basis.

I call Deputy Michael Collins. I remind Members that we are dealing with amendment No. 1.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the amendment regarding local authorities and the issue which led to the amendment. I am happy to have another opportunity to speak to the Bill. I spoke on it in November of last year. It is very important and addresses a variety of anti-corruption measures on national and international levels. The legislation is necessary to aid in the elimination of white collar crime.

I wish to raise a matter that I have previously brought to the attention of the Minister. A constituent of mine from Skibbereen, County Cork, leased a mountain-top site in Dunmanway from Coillte, a State agency, in 1990 for the purpose of developing a wireless telecommunication system for west Cork and beyond. It was one of the most valuable sites in the area in terms of mobile telecommunication. However, the arrival of Esat Digifone and O2 to surrounding sites resulted in the matter ending up in the Circuit Court in July 2005, 15 years into a 25 year lease. The case is relevant to section 7 of the Bill, which deals with corruption in regard to office, employment, position or business. There were several court hearings on the matter and it is alleged that no registrar was present to swear in a witness, which is required by law under the Courts of Justice Act 1924. In spite of that, my constituent's case was heard and judgment found against him. The Cork Circuit Court office has since stated that a registrar was present but it was unable to provide any names or proof of claimed expenses by that registrar on the day in question. My constituent was denied his right to appeal because there was no registrar in court to record the content of the judge's findings on the day. As no registrar was present, the end result is that all Circuit Court appearances in the case are unconstitutional, null and void. This ongoing nightmare destroyed the man's business ambitions and family and the stress he suffered has contributed to the deterioration of his health. No one in the Courts Service has done anything to assist him after 20 years of presenting his case to the best of his honest ability.

I wish to again ask the Minister if the Bill will provide any assistance to my constituent. When implemented, will the legislation allow him to appeal his case and have it re-examined as a result of the corrupt court proceedings? Will that man and many others like him receive justice for the white collar crime of which they have been the victim?

We are dealing with amendment No. 1, which proposes the inclusion of a member of a local authority in subsection (j) of section 2. Section 7 is not under discussion but there may be an opportunity on Final Stage to address the Bill generally.

I wish to point out to Deputy Mattie McGrath that had I known that this simple amendment tabled in response to pleas from Deputies O'Callaghan and Ó Laoghaire would generate a discussion on local authorities and the abolition of town councils, I probably would have left it to one side and carried on. I thank the Deputies for their contributions. It would not be reasonable or fair of me to comment in detail on a case before the courts such as that raised by Deputy Michael Collins. I wish to impress upon Members the clarity of this rather simple amendment which provides for specific reference to members of local authorities.

I remind Members that there is a limited time for speakers to make relevant contributions.

My contributions are always as relevant as I can make them. I might invoke the advice given today by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle when he stated that he cannot anticipate what Members will say. He does not have the power to do that.

Only God can do that.

Even The Cope is fallible.

Not just the Pope, also The Cope.

The Pope and The Cope together. I hope they have a healthy meeting when the Pope comes to Ireland. While I am on that point------

I should not be surprised. Had I known that Deputy McGrath was going to-----

An bhfuil an tAire ag éisteacht ar maidin?

An raibh an tAire ag éisteacht ar maidin?

An raibh? I thank Deputy O'Callaghan, a barrister, for his advice on grammar.

One cannot beat education.

One cannot beat third level education. I have only been to the university of life. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle today reminded Members that we still have a democracy and free speech, with his permission. Our contributions are as relevant as possible and speak to amendments that have been tabled. Deputy O'Callaghan suggested this amendment. I cannot remember the exact terminology used by the Minister but it sounded like he accepted it in desperation because he is afraid the confidence and supply pipe could erupt at any time. Ministers are four days away from the two-year mark and will be entitled to Government pensions and everything else on 6 May. Anything could happen next week. There could be an awful rupture in the pipe and a scattering to the hills. The Government would then be looking for a lot of water from the Shannon to quench the fires it has caused.

I think the Minister was a local authority member, although I am not certain and could be wrong. The motto of his late father, God be good to him, was "Here comes Oliver and there goes Flanagan". Fair dues to him. I have pictures of him pedalling his bicycle around his constituency. At least the Minister has the satisfaction of having a car and driver. Those were difficult times but county councillors were respected. We are fortunate to have a wise man such as Deputy O'Callaghan to think of the country councillors, although his party has forgotten about most other things in rural Ireland and did not even oppose the banishment of local town councils by the former Minister, big Phil Hogan, the enforcer, when he destroyed local government.

I will not rise to the provocation of Deputy Mattie McGrath.

I did not provoke the Minister.

I thought Deputy McGrath was complimenting him.

I was not provoking anyone.

Neither provoking nor encouraging.

I am sure that if I provoke anyone, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will intercede.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 17, lines 8 and 9, to delete “offered, given or agreed to be given, accepted, obtained or agreed to be accepted” and substitute “accepted or obtained”.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, deal with the forfeiture penalty under section 17, which appears four times. Each of the amendments seeks to do the same thing to each subsection in which the forfeiture penalty appears. On Committee Stage I flagged that I might need to bring forward such an amendment. Members will be aware that under section 27(1) there are four penalty options for a court where a person is found guilty of the offence of trading in influence. The penalties are a fine, a term of imprisonment, the forfeiture of a gift, consideration or an advantage and a combination of one or more of these penalties.

Amendment No. 2 is to section 17(1)(iii) which provides for the forfeiture penalty. The subsection states a court may order the forfeiture of any gift, consideration or advantage offered, given or agreed to be given, accepted, obtained or agreed to be accepted. Advice on the section has outlined that this provision, as worded, may be difficult to enforce. Ordering somebody to forfeit something he or she has already given to another person is not possible. The same applies to gifts, etc. agreed to be given or accepted. There is no guarantee that there is actually such a gift or that the person convicted has it in order to allow it to be forfeited. Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, follow in the same vein in the penalties for other offences under the Bill.

Essentially, what we are doing is ensuring a court may only order the forfeiture of a gift, an advantage or a consideration that the person being convicted actually holds. The amendments are technical in nature and I ask Deputies to give favourable consideration to the points mentioned.

I will support the amendments. If a person receives a gift, a consideration or an advantage in return for an act of corruption, one of the penalties should be that that gift, consideration or advantage be seized. However, the way the legislation was drafted initially indicated that the gift could be seized if it had been offered or there had been an agreement to give it. In that situation, as the Minister said, the gift might not have been given. Therefore, if somebody was to offer to give somebody a sum of money and the money was not paid, it would be extremely difficult to seize the money from the individual since he or she had not received it. It makes much more sense to change the wording to "a gift, consideration or advantage which has been accepted or obtained". It introduces less ambiguity into the penalty section in section 17.

I, too, support the amendment on the following grounds. I was to speak about something that hurt me greatly. The Minister will know that some of the finest people who ever served in local government were local councillors in terms of their dedication and commitment of time. He will also know that until 1999, there was no such thing as remuneration for being a county councillor; they were paid expenses. The late Danny Kissane - God be good to him - was a fine councillor for Fine Gael on Kerry County Council and I admired him a great deal. He reliably informed me that for the 12 months of 1981 the remuneration he had received for attending all his meetings and all of the time he had given to local government was £220. The point I am making is that we had respectable people like the late Danny Kissane and others from all parties - Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and others - as well as Independents. They were extremely dedicated to what I call their profession. They might have been small farmers, had a small shop or other job, but they were serving their communities. What hurt me badly - the Minister knows this as well as I do - was that as a result of the actions of a very small number of people, we had tribunals looking into payments made to politicians and so on. I do not want to brand places, but some of the cases happened to be in Dublin city. They gave what I would call highly respectable people a bad name. They also gave politics a bad name. However, people like the man I named were extremely dedicated and gave a lifetime to politics for no remuneration whatsoever.

Speaking to the Bill-----

Will the Deputy, please, speak to the amendment? The amendment dealing with local authorities was passed. This amendment is about forfeiture.

That is what I meant to say. This amendment is about the forfeiture of goods or gifts received and I have to outline my reason for supporting it. In the past that type of activity sullied and gave a bad name to respectable people who were serving their communities. They worked very hard to bring group water and local road improvement schemes to their areas. They tried to develop county development plans and local regional area plans and did all of the donkey work that had to be done in each area which, to this day, is being carried on by the highly respectable members not just in Kerry County Council but all other local authorities throughout the country. It is only right to recognise their work. It is important to acknowledge the time they gave and the work they did in their local authorities.

I support the Minister's amendment because anything that will squeeze out that nonsense and those who blackguard the system is to be welcomed. At times, politicians got a bad name and it was due to the activities of a very small number of people. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as a person steeped in local, national and European politics for many years, knows that being a politician can be a tough job at times. but we do it because we like it. However, we certainly do not like it when the idea of being a politician is sullied because of the activities of a very small number of people who lose track of what they are supposed to be doing and do things they are not supposed to do. I support the Minister and thank him for standing up for the good name of respectable politicians.

We are still dealing with the proposed penalties.

Yes. I refer the Deputy to page 17 of the Bill, lines 8 and 9. We are dealing with the penalties proposed. We have already dealt with the local authorities.

I am aware of that and thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I support the amendment which reads: "In page 17, lines 8 and 9, to delete “offered, given or agreed to be given, accepted, obtained or agreed to be accepted” and substitute “accepted or obtained”. The Minister might think this is semantics and that I am playing with language and grammar, on which Teachta Jim O'Callaghan advised me a while ago, but it is very important that the wording be as tight and also as loose as possible to incorporate all of the aforesaid activities. On a few occasions it was certainly put in my way that if I were to do such a thing, I would be looked after. We have to stamp out that activity completely. There is no place for it in any modern democracy. The amendment is, therefore, necessary. I know that the legal advice was to change the longer wording to "accepted or obtained", but the problem with the high fliers involved in white collar crime or crime of this nature is they have the resources and the wherewithal to wheel in Deputy Jim O'Callaghan or one of his colleagues and send him to the building by the river where the matter can be held up forever.

We saw what happened with the collapse of the economy, the banking inquiry and the court cases and the way they collapsed. This needs to be very tight and very stringent, with no tolerance for it. As Deputy Michael Healy Rae said, it was only cúpla duine, a small number of people who tarnished the reputation of the whole. It is fairly widespread in our economy and our country. The examples have been given here, including the scandal that we are dealing with at the moment. It is not corruption per se but it is a form of it in that there is no accountability. I just watched the "Six One News" and heard a certain gentleman refuse point blank to consider stepping aside when people have died. Many people have died and more people face death sentences. Why would corruption not be out there and be practised when people see that kind of disdain for democracy? We were here last week demanding that a Minister resign because he spoke to someone on the telephone but there is no demand for the resignation of the Minister who is championing and presiding over this horrible debacle involving cruelty and the suffering of so many women and their families, not to mention the dead women and their children and families. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle might think I am straying from the matter before us but I am not. This is all giving the impression that certain people in the Government are untouchable and we have no way of getting them to resign. I called twice last night and twice today for the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to resign. He is in charge and the buck must stop somewhere. It stops with him at Government level and with the CEO of the HSE. They have to resign because it is just not good enough. In the context of this Bill, what kind of message are we sending to young people? Surely there must be some follow through, some bit of accountability and some engagement with the democratic process. If things like this happen, there must be accountability.

I have dealt with a lot of families who have been in terrible turmoil. Only yesterday a family received no protection from the courts and their house was repossessed by the law agents of this State, An Garda Síochána on behalf of KBC bank. Deputies Michael Healy Rae and Michael Collins and myself made representations that to bank six weeks ago but have not even had the dignity of an acknowledgement from the CEO who we requested to meet peacefully. We wrote several letters to that bank. When one compares one with the other, we need a lot of the words in this amendment, including "accepted or obtained". A lot of things were accepted and a lot of things were obtained during the so-called boom that destroyed our country. One thinks of the greed, giving, taking, obtaining, bullying, misuse and abuse of people.

In the final analysis, the right to homes Bill that we tried to bring in here did not get through and that is important in the context of what we are talking about with this subject. It is a murky subject. A former colleague and former Member of this House served time in prison on a charge of blackmail. He served his time and suffered the penalties of the law and had redress to court. It is important that it be for everyone. We cannot victimise politicians or others; it must be for everyone, without fear or favour. We cannot allow squeaky lines or, as with the banking inquiry, the shredding of files, of which the Minister is aware. Necessary files were shredded in the DPP's office in the middle of court cases and the cases collapsed. That is widely known but it is okay because they are the elite, for whom we are all paying. Our children, our children's children and our grandchildren's children will be paying back the debts to our so-called friends in Europe and the IMF.

I ask the Deputy to stick to the amendments under consideration.

I am sticking to the amendments. This is about the words "accepted or obtained" in the amendment. There was a lot of accepting, a lot of obtaining and a lot of bullying and intimidation. A lot of lives were lost and trampled on and much suffering went on. It totally flies in the face of God, in the first place. It also flies in the face of accountability. That is what I am talking about - accountability in the banking and big developer sectors. It all got so cosy with the so-called Celtic tiger but he is lame and limp somewhere, if not deceased at this stage. The animal of NAMA was then set up and I am sure there will be a lot of inquiries when that is stood down. It is due to be stood down soon but a lot of funny things went on. A lot of bags of money travelled around my own town in Clonmel, as well as everything else.

I do not see the relevance of all of this.

The Deputy's time has expired so we will move on.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 17, lines 17 and 18, to delete "offered, given or agreed to be given, accepted, obtained or agreed to be accepted" and substitute "accepted or obtained".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 17, lines 29 and 30, to delete "offered, given or agreed to be given, accepted, obtained or agreed to be accepted" and substitute "accepted or obtained".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 18, lines 2 and 3, to delete "offered, given or agreed to be given, accepted, obtained or agreed to be accepted" and substitute "accepted or obtained".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 23, to delete lines 10 to 20 and substitute the following:

“Amendment of Criminal Justice Act 1994

23. The Criminal Justice Act 1994 is amended—

(a) in the definition of “realisable property” in section 3(1), by the substitution of the following for all the words from “but does not include property” to the end of that definition:

“but does not include property which is the subject of a forfeiture order under—

(i) section 30 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977,

(ii) section 17 of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018,

or

(iii) section 61 of this Act;”,

(b) in paragraph (c) of section 12(3), by the insertion of “, section 17 of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018” after “section 30 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977”, and

(c) in Schedule 1A—

(i) in Part 1—

(I) by the deletion of paragraph 1, and

(II) in paragraph 6, by the substitution of “paragraphs 2 to 5” for “paragraphs 1 to 5”,

and

(ii) in Part 2—

(I) by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph 17:

“17A. An offence under section 5 of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018.”,

and

(II) in paragraph 19, by the substitution of “16, 17 and 17A” for “16 and 17”.”.

This amendment inserts a new section 23 into the Bill which amends the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Deputies will recall that in the course of the Committee Stage debate I stated that a further technical amendment to the 1994 Act might be necessary and here it is. The new section 23, paragraph (a) amends the definition of realisable property in the 1994 Act. That definition relates to property that is suspected to be linked to criminal activity. Realisable property under the Act can be frozen in contemplation of criminal proceedings. This would be the case so as to ensure that the person who holds the property is stopped from disposing of same until the conclusion of those criminal proceedings. This is done in anticipation of a confiscation order which, of course, would have the effect of depriving an individual of the benefit of any such property. That can be ordered once a conviction is secured. In light of advice received from the Office of the Attorney General and following extensive consideration, it is proposed to exclude any property that is forfeited under section 17 of the Bill from the definition of realisable property because forfeiture under section 17 is part of a criminal penalty and should be excluded from the civil freezing regime under the 1994 Act, as per paragraph (a). Paragraph (b) seeks to achieve a similar aim in that the property which is ordered to be forfeited under section 17 cannot be used in satisfaction of a confiscation order under the 1994 Act. Paragraph (c) is merely a restatement of an amendment which we already agreed on Committee Stage.

I ask the Deputies for their indulgence and support of this amendment.

It would be very neglectful of us in discussing this not to acknowledge and recognise the work that has been done by CAB for many years. If my memory serves me correctly, the Government of the day which was led by Fine Gael introduced legislation following the death of the journalist, Ms Veronica Guerin. Politicians at that time, both in government and in opposition, came together and passed the necessary urgent legislation which dealt with people who were involved in organised criminal gangs at that time who thought they could do whatever they liked and that they were above the laws of this State.

They were running roughshod over the country at the time. They were laughing in the face of justice.

During the discussion on this amendment, it is right and important to recognise a group of people who are working in a very stressful situation. I refer to the members of An Garda Síochána who work in the Criminal Assets Bureau and do our State a great service. They have to take over properties and possessions that have been deemed to be gained on foot of acts of criminality, including theft and corruption. The bureau resulted from urgent emergency legislation that was put together by the politicians of the time to give members of An Garda Síochána the extra powers they needed. They have done sterling work for our country and our communities.

In recognising what happened at that time, I would like to mention the late Veronica Guerin and other people who were threatened and intimidated. I know some of them concentrated on this issue more than others. Virtually every week, the Sunday World is to the fore in the campaign against organised crime. I compliment the journalists in various newspapers who have worked in this field in the past and who are working in it at present. They are subject to a lot of worry at times just for doing their jobs. To be honest, we would not know about much of what goes on in this country only for the good work of journalists who dig deep to expose the criminal actions of people who are involved in highly organised crime. Some of those people have left this country to go to Spain and other parts of the world to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. Their actions have been brought to the attention of the public by journalists who are following in the footsteps of the late Veronica Guerin.

During our debate on what the Minister is proposing in respect of section 17, it is right and proper for us not only to express our support for this proposal but also to recognise the work of the Garda and the Criminal Assets Bureau. They have to be complimented and recognised on the floor of the House for the difficult work they are doing every day, sometimes in dealing with threatening and dangerous situations.

It is important to say a few words on this penalty which should be used to confiscate the properties, buildings, lands, chattels, vehicles, etc. held by drug lords and criminals. The penalty should fit the crime. It is a different story for parents whose children are being born today at a time when drugs are available around our country. As they bring up their children, they have to face the scourge of drugs that are readily available in our towns and, in some cases, although I do not wish to name any places, in our villages. It has gone down to that. If we can break down these devils and demons by confiscating their property, that is to be applauded and supported. Given that it is necessary to provide social housing to people who do not have a roof over their heads and may never be able to put a roof over their heads, I suggest that buildings which are confiscated under this legislation should be turned over to local authorities for use as social housing. That would penalise individuals who are involved in criminality while at the same time helping people who need social housing. I will be supporting this worthy amendment.

As the Minister has said, he is proposing a new section 23 which will amend the Criminal Justice Act 1994. The 1994 Act and other Acts were badly needed to keep up with the activities of well-organised and highly trained criminals who had resources oozing out of them and had overseas links on several countries and continents. Like the previous speakers, I praise the brave officers who put their lives at risk when the Criminal Assets Bureau was set up. They did this to try to have some impact on guys who were dancing around the Garda Síochána and the courts, who knew the law as well as Deputy O'Callaghan knows it and who had lawyers at their disposal to find loopholes and to challenge every court from the Circuit Court to the High Court and the Supreme Court. We even set up a new court system to deal with them. I salute the brave members of the Judiciary who had to sit in those courts. As we know, there had to be non-jury trials during times of war for good reason. These trials were not easy because of the intimidation that went on and the fear factor that existed. Gardaí were followed to their homes by people who wanted to know where their families lived. All of this was very subtle, but it was not very nice.

I assure the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, and his officials that I consider the proposed new section to be highly commendable. It is supported by the Opposition party with which the Government has a confidence and supply agreement and by other Members as well. Subsection (a) provides for realisable property to be frozen in criminal proceedings to be procured and disposed of after a conviction has been secured. Of course the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven has to be a flagship in any debate on these issues. It must be recognised and acknowledged.

We are talking about experienced and dangerous criminals who have significant resources, money and networks. It is frightening that a few people who are controlling the drugs situation in towns in my constituency of Tipperary are using children as young as eight years of age to do their drug runs. Property must be seized. This amendment will give the tools of the trade to An Garda Síochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the justice system so that these assets can be frozen until the appropriate time comes. We saw a notable case on the television at an early stage. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae mentioned a brave journalist, Veronica Guerin. Many other brave journalists write about these issues. I must compliment those involved with "Prime Time Investigates" as well for their bravery. These people do not like to be messed with or to have questions asked of them. They do not like to be knocked off their perch in any way. They want free rein. They want to be able to do what they wish with who they wish.

The Minister and his predecessor have met a group in Tipperary that is trying to save local communities that are close to where people get on and come off motorways. The road network allows criminals to be in Tipperary in an hour and a half from the capital or wherever else. It is a question of high visibility. I know the Minister is making an effort to give An Garda Síochána more powerful vehicles and air support, etc. It is needed because our police officers are brave. Goodness knows they have been dragged into disrepute over so many inquiries, whistleblowers and God knows what. Such matters have to be dealt with too. We must never forget the ordinary men and women who are on the beat as gardaí. We must remember our very good detectives as well. As I always say, they cannot do anything without the support of the public. It is very important for the public to support them.

I welcome this amendment.

It deals with the freezing of assets and the sending of the file to the Director of Public Prosecutions to back up the charges when people are arrested and arraigned. The charges must then be proved and an eminent justice must sign it. These people would have very valuable assets in many cases. Some gardaí have shown me the pictures and videos after they visited some of those people and the homes were palatial. All of it came from the proceeds of misery visited on ordinary people, including torture, intimidation and abuse. These are crimes against a person, which should be the worst of all. I know there are many Acts on the Statute Book to deal with crimes against a person but we had to get real. This is getting real.

When the Bill leaves the House tonight, how long will it take before its provisions are implemented? Will there be some kind of assessment? Many pieces of legislation are passed here and there are never impact assessments of the ones we oppose. There should certainly be examination of how legislation beds in, whether it functions and if there are unintended consequences. I hope there will not be any but there should be tracking of loopholes that might be challenged in the courts. There should be a period for settling in before coming back to matters like this. We are down to semantics, grammar and words. An order can be frozen while the conviction is being processed through all stages of the courts, and if there is a conviction, the property may be seized, secured and sold.

The purchaser should not be intimidated, as that is also a major issue. There may be subtle messages that people should keep away or the property is a no-go area, so we must deal with such a practice as well. It is a sensitive, tricky and cagey business so we must be twice as cagey as those people. They get up early in the morning because they do not go to bed at night. When the ordinary working man tries to rest, they are prowling on the streets of towns and elsewhere, seeing who they can prey on next. The busy person pays taxes and works, whether as a working man or business man. I support the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 23, after line 34, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 6 of Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010

26. Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 is amended by

— (a) the substitution of the following definition for the definition of "criminal conduct":

" 'criminal conduct’ means

— (a) conduct that constitutes an offence,

(b) conduct occurring in a place outside the State that constitutes an offence under the law of the place and would constitute an offence if it were to occur in the State, or

(c) conduct occurring in a place outside the State that would constitute an offence under section 5(1) or 6(1) of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018 if it were to occur in the State and the person or official, as the case may be, concerned doing the act, or making the omission, concerned in relation to his or her office, employment, position or business is a foreign official within the meaning of that Act;".".

This deals with an outstanding recommendation made by the OECD to Ireland in the course of its third round evaluation. The amendment changes the definition of criminal conduct in the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010, which deals with the offence of laundering the proceeds of criminal conduct. Members will recall that the OECD recommended that Ireland should remove the dual criminality requirement in respect of bribery of a foreign official as a predicate to money laundering where an offence of bribery took place abroad. The amendment will give effect to this recommendation by inserting paragraph (c) in the above amendment, providing that criminal conduct includes conduct occurring outside the State under sections 5(1) and 6(1) of this Bill that involves a foreign official as defined under this Bill. There is no requirement that the conduct is an offence in the place where it occurs.

As the Minister well knows, this arises from the very specific cases that occurred in a period when people were actively engaged in moving large sums of money - ill-gotten gains - out of this country and to sunnier climates such as certain parts of Spain. Properties were purchased in this respect. I must be careful how I describe these activities because I do not want to name particular cases. Activities were undertaken by officials in other countries who knew the funds involved were ill-gotten gains but they chose to turn a blind eye to that. It was a wrong-doing in itself but it could not be punished by this State in any way. There was no possible downside for the people involved because we had no jurisdiction in the matters. This is catering for that "loophole" of such cases that occurred in the past. People using funds in the way they did in those specific cases has resulted in the Minister's proposal this evening, and I hope this goes a long way to ensuring such activity does not happen again.

Perhaps the Minister heard of, or did some fettering of an animal in the past, and this is the same type of thing. The Minister will fetter criminals, not by tying their hands or legs but rather by ensuring they are not free as they have been in the past. To be honest, the criminals were beating the system here and abroad. They had the best of legal people whom they could hire and they could get the best advice on how to use ill-gotten goods to buy properties and invest in businesses, as many of them did abroad. They were involved in different types of hotels and bars in warmer climates than here. In that way, they were able to launder their ill-gotten gains. They could take it from here and buy a business over there, so the money they made over there appeared to be legitimate. Officials working abroad were part and parcel of that system.

I could compare that system to some of the activity going on here now that we have discussed in this Chamber on other nights relating to very questionable insurance claims. The system existed between professional people here and professional people abroad who used the money. This amendment puts the squeeze on and ensures such a practice cannot happen in future. Money is no good to these people unless they can use it. Their ill-gotten gains are no use unless the money can be laundered. They are doing it by buying property and especially businesses, including rental properties or restaurants and similar activity. In the 1980s and 1990s such people bought club venues here, particularly in Dublin, in order to legitimise their money. I compliment the Revenue Commissioners on their efforts to put a squeeze on the ill-gotten gains of crime. They did their job and should be complimented on that. Some people paid a very high price as they were terrorised by criminals who targeted them for only doing their job. When the heat got too much for these criminals in Dublin and around the country, they decided to take their money abroad, and that is why what is being discussed by the Minister is so important. If it makes it easier to punish people assisting that type of illegal activity outside the country, it is to be welcomed. That is why I support the Minister's statement. I thank him and his officials for the amendment.

It has taken much work to pull this together as the Department had to account not just for our jurisdiction but others as well. Much time, consideration and research had to go into the process. The Minister only has so much time to do what he does. Much official expertise had to be used in drafting the amendments. I am sure it was tedious work and it was not easy.

It was not easy for them to do. I recognise that and thank them all for doing their work.

Does Deputy Mattie McGrath have anything to add?

I have things to say myself without adding to that. I welcome this as well. I have great respect for the OECD. We do not listen to it often enough. It is an independent advisory body. It has done a series of evaluations. This is the third report. There is talk of setting up inquires here. Given the number of tribunals we have here, it would be better to bring in people from abroad who have no connection. They would provide independence and clarity. I put my own hand up. We might often be too close to issues to be able to see what is wrong. This is very important.

I refer to criminal conduct and laundering the proceeds. That happened for a long time in sa tir seo, na hÉireann. They had so much proceeds they had to find useful work for wilful gain. They could not mention the way that they had got it. They sent scouts out and linked up with European and then international gangs. They were able to transfer funds by various means. Sometimes it was just carried in bags but at other times it was transferred by electronic transfer. A web of deceit operated by bankers could transfer money from account to account and move it here and there. Lots of property was bought out of their ill-gotten gains. I salute the journalists that investigated it. I also salute the members of An Garda Síochána, Interpol and other police forces. We must always recognise the support of Interpol and other police forces that have to painstakingly follow and untangle this web. The proceeds of crime must be gotten.

Section 5(1) and section 6(1) in respect of foreign officials are necessary as well. That was a trick because the powers were not there under our legislation to follow these criminals and follow their tangled web of deceit. There were no powers to ensure they were monitored, were under covert surveillance and were identified and to ensure a case would be made to lead to arrests and questioning. The dual offence for crimes that took place abroad is very important. Otherwise we were going nowhere.

I congratulate the Minister, his drafters and his advisers on this excellent legislation. We could see the wealth, the villas, the hotels and the palatial mansions on the sunny beaches of other countries. They had a lovely life of luxury after the misery that their empire perpetrated on the people of Ireland and, indeed, many other countries. It is important that we support this. When wrapping up, the Minister might indicate when this will be implemented and when he thinks there might be an evaluation of it. It is more difficult when it is offshore and off-site because we do not know what continent they have gone to. We have a massive coastline to patrol, as well as our airports. We have to cater for all kinds of movements.

I welcome this legislation and hope it is introduced speedily and that it will be of benefit. We should go back to the OECD and ask it to evaluate it again for us. I know it is not altogether happy with some issues. I refer to the situation with white collar crime and the issues I spoke about on previous amendments about the banking inquiry. It is not very happy with some of the investigations and some of the roles of our police force. The OECD had things to say that we need to learn from. We need to talk to the OECD. Perhaps it could help us find a new Garda Commissioner. Perhaps we need international experience and people who have experience in police forces that have dealt with these issues in the countries they are from. The OECD is a valuable resource to have and we should listen to it. We must engage with it and be thankful for the advice it has given, especially in respect of this amendment. I am glad have accepted it. We can often become insular and say we know best ourselves. However, we often do not.

I refer to the cold calm eye of an outside body like the OECD and such bodies that are not for profit and are for the betterment of developed countries and countries that are trying to develop. This is excellent legislation and I support anything we can do to curtail or restrict the salubrious lifestyles of the people who emigrate and tarnish and sully the name of this little nation. They laugh all the way to the bank, to their villas, to the seaside and to their fine wines because I am reliably informed that some have their own vineyards. They have a great lifestyle from their ill-gotten gains. They are into catering, hotels and all kinds of activities as a cover. It is not work. They do not work. They just want to bury and hide the proceeds of crime. They have a very salubrious lifestyle from a trail of misery and destruction left in our country. It is important that Interpol and all the other police forces around the world act on advice given by the OECD. They must work with our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We must try together - in aghaidh cur le chéile - to make a dent and bring down those empires of drug cartels and of deceitfulness. I refer to the image they portray to our young people of being above the law and that they can do whatever they like when they like with whom they like.

I support this interesting and innovative amendment by the Minister. It is innovative because it seeks to amend our money laundering legislation to include in its definition of criminal conduct acts of corruption which we have established under this legislation have been carried out by foreign officials. In particular, it seeks to identify criminal conduct as including the criminal offence of active and passive corruption under section 5. Section 6 deals with active and passive trade in influence. It is innovative because it seeks to include those two criminal offences as examples of criminal conduct that can allow the operation of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010.

It is important to recognise that corruption is an international issue. If we look at examples of major international corruption, there are countries where one would start and one is not Ireland. There are countries where one would say that individuals involved in government have been, and are, involved in acts of corruption. The definition of "foreign official" in this legislation includes a member of the government of any other state, a member of a parliament of any other state and a public prosecutor in any other state.

If we are serious about trying to tackle corruption, we need to ensure that we recognise its international context. The benefit of this amendment is that it will mean that the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 will be able to operate in respect of the offences contained in sections 5 and 6. This is far-reaching legislation. Our money laundering and terrorist financing legislation can be used to freeze moneys that happen to end up in Irish bank accounts if it can be established that those moneys are the proceeds of crime committed under sections 5 and 6 of this legislation. That is irrespective of whether or not those crimes are crimes in the country where the foreign official comes from.

I believe it is an innovative proposal in this regard. We will be supporting it and I am interested in seeing how it will work out and the extent to which it will have an impact on deterring corrupt foreign officials from using Ireland as a place where they can source their money.

I support this amendment as well because it is important that our system has better powers to deal with these people. They were giving us the two fingers from abroad and doing practically whatever they liked. They took the view that they were untouchable in certain countries. I am unsure how far this will extend or whether those in other countries can still evade our laws and operate criminal rackets from afar.

This is important. There are drugs coming in around our shores. We must congratulate the Garda on the great work done and for much of the apprehending of people caught bringing drugs. People are serving time in many cases. However, the problem remains because of the people who put drivers into lorries or who have people take the drugs or whatever. The real managers and bosses are still evading conviction in this country because the law was not good enough to deal with them. I hope this amendment will deal with these people. It hurts me when I see young people who started out well in life but lost their way because of drugs being readily available. Perhaps when their defences were down a little they started using drugs. These monsters or predators enticed such people into what I would call a desperate disease whereby they developed a craving for drugs. Not alone does it upset the person concerned, it upsets partners, children, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. It brings them to a new kind of low that they thought they would never encounter in their families. When one person in the family is affected, it affects the rest of the family as well as friends and members of small communities.

I support the amendment. I am supportive of any way that we can deal with these villains in a stronger fashion.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I wish to make a further comment on it.

Let us pass it first.

It is agreed. We are supporting it.

Question put and agreed to.

Is it agreed that the Bill be sent to the Seanad? Agreed. You wanted to come back in, Deputy McGrath. Is that correct?

I do, with your indulgence, Acting Chairman.

The members of the Rural Independent Group are supportive of this. Any right-thinking Member or person would be supportive of it. As I said, several enactments are being amended, some of which are rather old. The criminal justice legislation is only from this year but this Bill is also relevant to section 30 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. I was only doing my leaving certificate in school at that time. It is important that some of the legislation is updated and upgraded, especially when we are dealing with a situation of international crime gangs and money laundering and all that goes with it. The Criminal Justice Act 1994 is amended as well. It is important that we put them all together and have a workable document. It is important to provide clarity for our police service - the Garda Síochána in this case - and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. They need to be able to understand clearly rather than playing hide-and-seek with these marauding terrorists. They are terrorists. I know terrorism has been used in a different vein today - something I very much resent, but we will deal with that in the next session. This is terrorism because people are the victims of all these heinous crimes in their homes. They are literally terrorised in their homes, businesses and communities, whether they are at work or play. It is important that we pull together the various strands of the Acts, including the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010. That is what it is. It is important we embrace all those provisions in this legislation. That is why I support it. This is relevant for anyone who supports or who speaks against the 2010 Act or this legislation.

We have the tools of the trade, as I said earlier, to put a stop to these people, get them off the road, take the wheels off their wagon and take the wind out of their sails. We have a proper framework of legislation that can be applied swiftly with the assistance of other agencies of the State and those all over the world to put a stop to the corruption and money laundering because they represent a cancer on society.

We have looked in awe at other countries over the years. We saw it with some Third World countries and we still see it with corrupt governments and situations there. We were a pretty modern and young democracy. We should not have allowed this to mushroom, to be nurtured and to get-----

I am dealing with the amendment. This is a wrap-up.

I wish to make a point of order. I have no wish to delay proceedings but I am seeking clarity from you, Acting Chairman. My understanding is that we had moved on. In fact, the last I heard from the Chair was that the Bill would be sent to the Seanad. I thought we had agreement on that. I now hear Deputy McGrath speaking about amendments.

I gave him permission to do a wrap-up, a quick summary. That is it.

A wrap-up and speaking on amendments are two different things. I have no wish to split hairs.

I have dealt with the amendments and the different Acts that we are pulling together with advice from the OECD and others. The idea is to provide a basic Bill and the tools of the trade for An Garda Síochána and our prosecutors.

I understand that you only came in and that we are nearly finished. I understand your difficulty, Acting Chairman. I am not trying to be obstreperous. I am simply saying that I welcome it.

Deputy, please. I am asking you to co-operate. We are at an end. I simply gave you a minute to wrap-up.

I am wishing the Bill well and I am looking for an evaluation to be held in six months. I asked the Minister when he expected the legislation to be enacted earlier but he did not answer. He might clarify that. I am also seeking an evaluation on how it will impact----

The evaluation will be in June.

When will it be enacted?

The difficulty here was mine. I am moving on from this Bill. I already indicated it will be sent to the Seanad, so I ask the Deputy to co-operate with me-----

I am. I have just two questions. When will it be enacted and when will it be evaluated?

The Minister said it will be in June. I am moving on.

He did not say when it will be enacted.

Acting Chairman-----

I have moved on. The Deputy did not indicate in time. I gave permission to Deputy McGrath to come in as the last speaker and I understand he proposed an amendment before I came into the Chamber. I am sorry about that but that is what I understood.

No. I did not see Deputy Healy-Rae at all. I will move on now because-----

Can I have the opportunity to-----

I am afraid the Deputy cannot at this point.

Not wishing to delay or even confuse proceedings, but I need clarification from the Chair as to where we are.

I understood we were at the end of the debate and I allowed Deputy McGrath to sum up by making a very brief statement at the end. I am going to move on to the Road Traffic-----

The Bill has been passed.

On a point of order, and I seek direction from the Chair on this, are we not entitled to wrap up with a final comment at the end of debate and give an overview? I stand to be corrected if I am wrong but I believe that once one indicates to the Chair and once the Chair sees that, is one not entitled-----

On a point of order, we are operating the new politics. The House has very important business to transact. We have to finish the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, for which the entire country is waiting, and we also have to deal with a very serious Bill from the Department of Finance. Our constituents expect us to expedite that business by 10.15 p.m. tonight. Given that, the Minister for Justice and Equality is correct that we should move on to the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.

I accept that. I am moving on to that. I have made my ruling on this.

I thank the Acting Chairman for that.

I allowed Deputy Mattie McGrath in and I am now moving on to-----

Am I out of order then?

I am not entitled to-----

I am not allowing the Deputy in at this point. I allowed Deputy Mattie McGrath in.

Even though I had indicated.

I am not allowing the Deputy in at this point. I have made my ruling and I am moving on to the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.