I thank the Senators for agreeing to debate this motion at relatively short notice. I request the House to approve Ireland’s opting into a new proposal on facilitating the use of financial and other information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences.
Ireland has an option, provided for in Article 3.1 of Protocol 21 annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon, to opt in to individual proposals in the area of freedom, security and justice. The protocol provides that Ireland has three months, from the date a proposal or initiative is presented to the Council, to notify the Presidency of the Council in writing of its wish to take part in the negotiation, adoption and application of any such measure. The three-month period for this proposal is due to end on 1 November. Following approval by the Government on 12 October, Oireachtas approval is required under Article 29.4.7° of the Constitution. The Dáil gave its support to the motion yesterday. Ireland will still be able to accept the proposal any time after it has been adopted, but in such a case Ireland will not have been in a position to vote on the final contents of the proposal. It must also be noted that Ireland made a declaration appended to the Treaty of Lisbon of its intention to opt in to measures in the area of freedom, security and justice to the maximum extent it deems possible.
This proposal is linked to a suite of EU proposals on reforming the EU’s anti-money laundering framework published in July. The proposals include a proposed 6th anti-money laundering directive, 6AMLD, which, among other things, would provide for a cross-border interconnection between member states' bank account registers, BAR, via a single access point. The amending directive we are discussing today seeks to extend access to the BAR single access point to the bodies designated with responsibility for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences under directive 2019/1153, which Ireland has already opted in to.
My officials have consulted the Office of the Attorney General and have been advised that there is no legal impediment to Ireland opting into this proposal. Work is in progress to transpose Directive (EU) 2019/1153 into Irish law. That directive requires member states to designate authorities competent in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences in order for them to access and search the centralised BARs. In Ireland, these competent authorities include the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, and a cohort in An Garda Síochána at senior level.
The 4th anti-money-laundering directive, as amended by the 5th anti-money-laundering directive, requires member states to put in place BARs. It is anticipated that Ireland’s BAR mechanism will go live in the third quarter of 2022. The new anti-money-laundering directive will provide access to the BAR single access point at EU level only to the financial intelligence units of member states. Wider access for other authorities with responsibilities for preventing, detecting, investigating or prosecuting criminal offences will facilitate effective financial investigations. This is why the directive we are discussing is necessary.
By interconnecting the national and centralised BARs at EU level, authorities with access to the BAR single access point will be able to establish quickly whether an individual holds bank accounts in other member states. The information that will be available through the BAR single access point includes names, IBANs, dates of account opening and closing, and the duration of the lease period in the case of safe deposit boxes. The same limitations and safeguards created in Directive (EU) 2019/1153 will remain in place. Not opting into this amending directive will present risks regarding Ireland's perceived commitment to the EU anti-money-laundering framework. Furthermore, given Ireland's status as a hub for business and investment, it is important to have appropriate preventive measures in place, including robust legislation, to address a range of interconnected economic crimes, such as corruption, fraud and money laundering. I look forward to hearing the views of the Senators. I urge them to support the motion.