Proceeds of Crime (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill 2020: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide, in connection with the proceeds of crime, that certain conduct occurring outside the State is criminal conduct notwithstanding that it does not constitute an offence under the law of the state or territory concerned if the conduct constitutes or is connected with a gross human rights abuse, for that purpose to amend the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 to 2016, and to provide for related matters.

Many Members would recognise this legislation as Magnitsky legislation. Since 2012 a number of countries have passed laws providing for financial sanctions against the officials of other states who have committed human rights abuses or have been involved in significant corruption. These are collectively referred to as Magnitsky law, named after Sergei Magnitsky, an accountant who made serious accusations against Russian tax and law enforcement officials and was in turn accused of aiding tax evasion, was arrested and jailed in Russia and, after being allegedly beaten by police, died in prison. In 2012 the United States Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on officials involved in that case. Laws along similar lines have subsequently been passed in the United Kingdom and in Canada.

In this State powers under the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 to 2016 to seize and dispose of assets may be available against corrupt foreign officials who have assets within this Jurisdiction. However, in order to apply the 1996 Act, a dual criminality test would need to be satisfied. The conduct giving rise to the acquisition of those assets must be such that it would constitute an offence both under Irish law and under the law of that foreign state. The purpose of this Bill is to make the Proceeds of Crime Acts more easily available to deal with such cases. The Bill provides that certain conduct occurring outside of our State is described as criminal conduct for the purposes of our Proceeds of Crime Acts, notwithstanding that it does not constitute an offence under the law of the foreign state concerned if the conduct constitutes or is connected with a gross abuse of human rights. Conduct is stated to constitute a gross human rights abuse if it is carried out by, at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of public officials or a public official of the national regional or local government or public administration of a named foreign state in the performance or the purported performance of official duties, or if it involves the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering or the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of a person who has sought to expose illegal activity carried out by a public official or to obtain, exercise, defend or promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This legislation mirrors legislation being enacted in progressive countries across the world. I have instanced that it is mirrored in a number of jurisdictions already and there is an initiative now on the part of the European Parliament to encourage all European Union states to mirror this type of legislation in order that if foreign governments and officials involved in corrupt practices or gross violation of human rights have assets in this State, we can act against them in order that they cannot stash ill-gotten gains in jurisdictions such as our own. In our Jurisdiction, where we now have very extensive inward investment in our financial services, this sort of legislation is urgently required. I ask the House to support the Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.