I welcome the opportunity to present the Bill to the House. The euro is the second most widely used global currency after the US dollar. Figures released by the European Central Bank this year show there are 25 billion euro banknotes in circulation, with a value of over €1.4 trillion. Responsibility for protecting the euro currency against counterfeiting is shared between the EU authorities and all member states. This is achieved through a comprehensive package of technical, administrative and criminal law measures, which have over time proven to be very successful. Figures published by the ECB in January show that counterfeiting is down 17% year-on-year and is now at an historically low level. In 2020, the chance of a note being counterfeit was only 17 in 1 million and most counterfeits are of low quality and are quickly detected and removed from circulation.
Although this threat has been contained, with high-tech security features making euro banknotes secure and easy to distinguish from counterfeits, the regime will continue to evolve to ensure protection in the future. This Bill will update Irish law to reflect four pieces of EU legislation in the area. These are, by and large, already implemented, either in law or existing practice, and the Bill reflects the evolution of an already successful regime to ensure that we meet our EU obligations.
The current law in regard to counterfeiting is contained in Part 5 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, which gives effect to the earlier EU measure in this area, namely, Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA. The 2014 directive updates and replaces that 2000 framework decision and establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the area. Article 3 of the directive requires criminal offences to be in place in respect of making, altering or importing counterfeit currency and possessing instruments and security features for making counterfeits. While, for the most part, the provisions on counterfeiting in our existing 2001 Act meet the requirements of the 2014 directive, it is necessary to make a number of amendments to this Act to align with the 2014 directive and to fulfil our obligations.
The European Commission issued a reasoned opinion on 3 December 2020 to Ireland in respect of the remaining aspects of the transposition of this directive and there has been ongoing engagement with the Commission. Several aspects of the directive are being refined and clarified by this legislation, including the import-export of counterfeits from non-EU states, the use of legal instruments for illegal purposes, the counterfeiting of non-circulated currency, possession of materials that may be used for counterfeiting, extra-territorial jurisdiction and liability of bodies corporate. These changes are contained in Part 2.
In addition to transposing the outstanding elements of the 2014 directive, the Bill will also provide for statutory powers in respect of monitoring, supervision, enforcement and some related powers relating to three interrelated EU legal instruments that are in force: Regulation 44/2009, amending Regulation 1338/2001, laying down measures necessary for the protection of the euro against counterfeiting; Council Regulation 1210/2010 concerning authentication of euro coins and handling of euro coins unfit for circulation; and European Central Bank Decision, ECB/2010/14, on the authenticity and fitness checking of bank notes.
Part 3 will place existing supervisory practice in respect of these measures on a statutory footing and give the Central Bank of Ireland, CBI, powers in respect of some firms that do not financial regulation legislation. These issues:are primarily the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and his officials have been closely involved in the development of the Bill. The provisions in Part 3 will provide the necessary powers:and functions for the CBI in respect of monitoring and enforcement measures relating to suspect counterfeit euro currency and currency deemed unsuitable for recirculation. The CBI is also the Irish branch of the ECB and, therefore, is responsible for, and needs the power to, fitness check euro notes and coins.
Part 4 places on statutory footing the designation of the currency centre of the CBI as the national analysis centre for euro notes and the coin national analysis centre, CNAC, for euro coins. It also provides for the recovery of costs by the CBI in respect of euro coins, in particular the protection of the euro against counterfeiting. Part 4 also contains consequential amendments to other legislation.
I will now move on to the specific provisions of the Bill. Part 1 is a standard provision that sets out the short title of the Bill and the arrangements for the commencement.
Part 2 sets out the amendments to the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 to give full effect to the 2014 directive.
Sections 2 and 3 provide for relevant definitions. Section 4 creates a specific offence of making or altering a designated note or coin with the intention of passing it off as genuine.
Section 5 creates a new offence of receiving, obtaining or transporting anything a person knows or believes to be a counterfeit note with the intention of passing it off as genuine. This complements the existing definition under section 34 of the 2001 Act.
Section 6 substitutes the existing offence in section 36 of the 2001 Act in respect of receiving, obtaining and having control or custody of currency instruments, counterfeiting instruments or security features for the purpose at making a counterfeit note or coin with the intention of it being passed off as genuine.
Section 7 revises section 37 of the 2001 Act in respect of importing or exporting a counterfeit or currency note or coin.
Section 8 provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction in respect of the relevant offences under the Part and amends section 38.
Section 9 provides for liability by a body corporate and inserts a new section 38A.
Section 10 amends section 39 of the 2001 Act by defining "designated bodies", "credit institutions", "transporter of funds" and "payment service provider". The new definition of a credit institution will incorporate a number of institutions previously listed in section 39.
Section 11 provides for a technical amendment to section 58 of the Act of 2001 regarding liability for offences by a body corporate to exclude its application to Part 5 in view of the new section 38A inserted by section 9.
Part 3 relates to the obligations of relevant persons in respect of ensuring authenticity and fitness of euro bank notes and coins. it sets out the new monitoring, supervision and enforcement powers of the CBI.
Section 12 provides the definitions that will apply to Part 3, including the "relevant persons" to which the obligations apply. Section 13 provides for the functions and powers of the CBI, including monitoring and taking measures to ensure compliance with the EU instruments, verifying the specific procedures referred to and performing the specific controls and functions referred to.
Section 14 provides that the CBI may impose requirements on relevant persons to take specific measures, including measures to rectify non-compliance with certain obligations and to comply with the condition of a permission granted by the CBI.