The Criminal Justice Act 2011, which is an important step in delivering on the Government’s commitment to tackle white collar crime, provides for new procedures to facilitate Garda access to essential information and documentation to assist in current and future investigations of white collar crime. The Act is targeted at specified serious and complex offences (“relevant offences”), including offences in the areas of banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud and corruption.
Section 3 of the Act provides that for the purposes of the Act, a relevant offence is an arrestable offence specified in Schedule 1 to the Act, or specified in an order made by the Minister for Justice and Equality under section 3(2). An arrestable offence is an offence punishable by imprisonment for a period of 5 years or more.
Section 3(2) provides that the offences that may be specified as relevant offences by Ministerial order are offences relating to banking, investment of funds and other financial activities, company law, money laundering and financing terrorism, theft and fraud, bribery and corruption, competition and consumer protection, cybercrime or the raising and collection of taxes and duties.
The Minister must be of opinion that the powers under the Act are necessary for the investigation of such an offence by reason of the nature of the offence concerned and the prolonged period of time generally required for the investigation of such an offence as a result of the complexity that generally arises in such an investigation due to any of the following factors that may be expected to be involved:
(i) the number of witnesses,
(ii) the volume of documents,
(iii) the wide distribution and proliferation of documents arising from the use of electronic means of communication,
(iv) the number of transactions,
(v) the complexity of transactions, or
(vi) other factor.
The Minister must consult with any other relevant Minister before making an order under section 3(2). I have been in consultation with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the question of specifying offences under the Competition Acts as relevant offences for the purposes of the Act. I understand that issues arising in relation to this matter are under examination in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.