Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (239)

Gerry Adams

Question:

239. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider ring-fencing assets and funds seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau for use by groups working with victims of addiction. [51157/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996. The Bureau’s remit is to target a person's assets, wherever situated, which derive, or are suspected to derive, directly or indirectly, from criminal conduct. Since its inception, the Bureau has been at the forefront of fighting organised crime in this jurisdiction and disrupting the activities of criminal gangs by depriving them of ill-gotten assets.

The Bureau is widely regarded as a best practice model in the context of combating organised crime. It works closely with law enforcement bodies at national and international levels and continues to relentlessly pursue the illicit proceeds of organised crime activity. The actions of the Bureau send a strong message to criminals and to local communities that profiting from crime will not be tolerated.

In accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016, all funds collected by the Bureau are forwarded, either directly or through the Revenue Commissioners/Department of Social Protection, to the Central Exchequer Fund. It is this Central Fund from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment including the provision of drug services.

The Constitution requires, and Government accounting principles provide, that public moneys be spent only as voted or approved by Dáil Éireann, unless otherwise provided by statute.

While there have been calls from some quarters for monies confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be ring fenced, a policy of ring-fencing monies obtained by the Exchequer and the reallocation of same for a specific purpose, runs contrary to the normal Estimates process. While allowing for a small number of very specific targeted exceptions, it is believed that earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would, in general, constrain the Government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy.

There are also practical difficulties owing to the variable and uncertain nature of the value of the assets seized by the Bureau in any given year. In addition, the potential delays caused by legal challenges to court disposal orders would also be problematic in terms of continuity of provision of funding to specific programmes or projects, whether drug related or otherwise.

Therefore because of the variable value and nature of assets seized by the Bureau in any given year, such a revenue source would not be reliable for facilitating the proper planning of drug treatment provision and programmes by organisations involved in the delivery of such services.

Finally, the Deputy may be interested to know that Section 21 of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996 requires the Bureau, through the Garda Commissioner, to provide a report of its activities each year to the Minister for Justice and Equality who is then required to lay copies of the report before each House of the Oireachtas.

The Annual Reports (including the most recent, the Annual Report 2018, which was published in June this year) are available in the Oireachtas library and on the website of An Garda Síochána and my own Department. The published reports provide full details of all assets seized and disposed of by the Bureau. Further information can be found at the following address: http://www.cab.ie/en/cab/pages/annualreports.