Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (610)

Thomas Gould

Question:

610. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Justice further to Parliamentary Question No. 507 of 8 December 2020, the reason for the discrepancy between the amount seized and amount sent to the Exchequer in each year. [6457/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the identification, tracing, freezing, and ultimate confiscation of criminal assets does not rest with a single body in Ireland and is spread across a number of different agencies and statutory bodies, not all of which are within the responsibility of the Department of Justice. The relevant bodies include An Garda Síochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Revenue Commissioners, the Chief State Solicitors Office, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts. It should be noted that in some cases, funds seized represent overdue or unpaid personal taxation.

I understand that, in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016, the Criminal Justice Act 1994, as amended, and SI No. 418/2011, all confiscations relating to the proceeds of crime are transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to be paid into the Exchequer. It is from this central fund that the Government draws expenditure on all necessary public services and investment including for communities affected by crime.

I am informed that the disparity between what is seized in a given year and that which is returned to the Exchequer can be explained by reference to three primary considerations:

1. Firstly, section 4 of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016, under which the Criminal Assets Bureau vests seized assets in the Exchequer, cannot be invoked until the expiration of a seven year period from the date of seizure. Thus, if property is seized by CAB in 2020, under ordinary circumstances, that property cannot vest in the Exchequer until 2027. This seven year time period is set out in the section 4 of the PoCA, and can only be dispensed with on the consent of the Respondent.

2. Secondly, for a variety of reasons e.g. depreciation, notoriety associated with asset, condition etc. the values attributed to assets at seizure may not be the value realised by the sale of those assets.

3. Thirdly, receivership costs including the cost of securing, managing, storing, valuing and selling an asset will need to be deducted from the gross sales value to ascertain the amount returned to the Exchequer.

In addition to the above, on some occasions assets which the Criminal Assets Bureau have seized and obtained an order over, following an application to the High Court, can be returned to a third party, i.e. an injured party. A case in point is the Abacha case where the Bureau returned funds in 2020 to the Nigerian Government and not the Exchequer.

The activities of the Bureau are reported on each year in its Annual Report and can be found at www.cab.ie. The Deputy may wish to note that the 2020 Annual Report is currently being drafted and will be published later in the year.