The Deputy will be aware that it is an unwelcome reality that the technology advances that have benefited our society have also created new opportunities for those who seek to engage in fraud and criminality. Tackling and preventing fraud is of crucial importance to Ireland and to the wider international community. The Deputy may also wish to note that white collar crime is highlighted as an action area in the Programme for Government.
Combating and preventing fraud and related cybercrime falls under the remit of several Departments and Agencies, and my Department cooperates closely with colleagues across the whole of Government on this issue. It is vital however, that companies and individuals report any incidents of fraud to An Garda Síochána. The Garda National Cybercrime Bureau (GNCB) is involved in tackling cyber-enabled crimes in collaboration with other Garda units such as the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.
A review of Ireland’s anti-fraud and anti-corruption structures, chaired by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr James Hamilton, is currently examining the effectiveness of the State’s procedural, legislative and resourcing frameworks for the investigation, prosecution and prevention of fraud and corruption offences. I am advised that the Hamilton Review Group is currently finalising the draft report with a view to its publication in the coming weeks. I look forward to receiving the group’s recommendations, which will inform future changes in the State bodies and structures that combat fraud and protect the public.
With regard to legislative changes, Ireland signed the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime (the Budapest Convention) on the 28 February 2002. As outlined in the 2nd National Cyber Security Strategy, ratification of the Budapest Convention is aimed to be completed by the second quarter of 2021. The majority of the provisions contained in the Budapest Convention are already provided for in Irish law. My Department has been working to provide the remaining provisions required to enable ratification.
With regard to the retrieval of fraudulently obtained funds, these are operational matters for An Garda Síochána and the Criminal Assets Bureau, and as Minister I have no operational role. I would note however the existing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and financial institutions with regard to recovering funds. I note a recent instance where thanks to the prompt action of the business concerned and the relevant financial institution, An Garda Síochána were able to recover over €2 million obtained via invoice redirect fraud, in cooperation with international partners. I would echo the advice given by An Garda Síochána for all members of the public and all businesses to be wary during this pandemic, and to bring any concerns they have about such fraudulent behaviour to the attention of An Garda Síochána as quickly as possible.