I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that it maintains close liaison with other law enforcement agencies throughout Europe, and elsewhere, exchanging information and intelligence on Irish criminals living abroad. This ongoing liaison has led to a number of successful joint operations targeting the attempted importation of drugs and firearms and resulting in a number of significant arrests here and in other jurisdictions. Where intelligence, supported by evidence, is available, law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions put operations in place, as appropriate, in cooperation with An Garda Síochána to prevent and detect such criminality.
Where information exists that a person who is wanted in relation to a particular crime in this jurisdiction is living abroad, and where particular legal requirements apply, extradition is sought, or an application is made for a European Arrest Warrant.
Where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crimes. A member of An Garda Síochána must, at all times, have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has been involved in criminal activity before they can arrest and question any person in relation to criminality.
Ireland is a party to various International Conventions which provide for assistance in criminal matters between jurisdictions. An Garda Síochána send and receive requests for assistance via the Central Authority for Mutual Assistance which is based in my own Department. Requests for assistance may also be dealt with on the basis of reciprocity where certain jurisdictions may not be a party to specific conventions.
The new Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 will provide An Garda Síochána with an additional ability to fight organised crime and obtain evidence outside Irish borders. This Act provides a greater role to An Garda Síochána in servicing requests from outside this jurisdiction in terms of the monitoring of accounts in financial institutions in this jurisdiction and in obtaining evidence for use in other EU Member States in the fight against organised crime.
An Garda Síochána participates in Europol, the EU law enforcement organisation that handles criminal intelligence. The aim of Europol is to improve the effectiveness of, and cooperation between, the competent authorities of the Member States in preventing and combating serious international organised crime and terrorism. In this respect, Europol facilitates the bilateral and multilateral exchange of information via secure and encrypted channels among the EU Member States, other European countries, and certain other nations such as the USA and Australia.
Europol provides an extensive analytical capacity, providing operational and intelligence analysis on request. Europol also generates and disseminates strategic reports such as threat assessments and early warning messages, which are distributed and actioned nationally as appropriate.
Expertise and technical supports are also available on request. Member States, including Ireland, second ‘national experts' to Europol from time to time for these purposes. Europol channels are used by operational Garda units investigating trans-national organised crime affecting Ireland, and are similarly used by police and customs officials in other EU Member States who are investigating any serious criminal activity in their country.
An Garda Síochána is also a member of the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) which is a worldwide organisation whose aim is to promote and facilitate enquiries into criminal activities. One of its primary objectives is to ensure that criminals who operate at international level are arrested and successfully prosecuted.
Interpol coordinates actions between police forces of member countries, of which there are 186. The five priority crime areas for Interpol are Fugitives, Public Safety & Terrorism, Drugs and Organised Crime, Trafficking in Human Beings and Financial & High-Tech Crime. Interpol fosters close relationships with key international organisations. The General Secretary of Interpol has achieved observer status at the United Nations and has developed a good working relationship with Europol.
An Garda Síochána also has Liaison Officers based in the Hague, London, Paris, Madrid, Europol and Interpol to assist with international aspects of Garda investigations and assist other Law Enforcement Agencies in investigations involving Irish nationals.
There are two categories of organised crime groups operating in this jurisdiction. The first category consists of individuals/groups that are well established and tightly structured involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland.
Organised criminal gangs operating in this jurisdiction are being targeted on an ongoing basis and profiles regarding the personnel of such groups are continually updated. Their members, operating methods, criminal interests and financial assets are likewise proactively targeted and a Garda response embraces intelligence-led operations primarily undertaken by An Garda Siochana specialised units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drug Unit, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau. In addition, information relating to these groupings is disseminated on a regular basis to Europol at The Hague in order to ensure that those operating outside of this jurisdiction can be pursued with the full rigour of the law.