Support for white collar crime unit

A new enforcement body to target white collar crime could finally tackle the “apathy around the culture”, a legal expert has said, writes Pádraig Hoare.

University of Limerick professor Shane Kilcommins was speaking after the Central Bank said it would support the creation of a dedicated division within an existing criminal agency to specifically investigate white-collar crime.

The Central Bank was responding to the Law Reform Commission’s paper on regulatory enforcement and corporate offences, saying such a division would allow for more effective investigation and prosecution of white collar offences.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is currently in place to oversee compliance by firms with the Companies Act.

The Central Bank declined to comment on what a new white collar agency would mean for the ODCE but said assistance and sharing of resources could lead to more crimes being prosecuted.

A spokesman for the Central Bank said: “There is understandable public concern around the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime. The Central Bank would support the creation of a dedicated division within an existing criminal agency to investigate white collar crime.

He added: “These reforms would allow for more effective investigations into white collar offences and, where appropriate, prosecutions taken. Individuals with relevant skills could be seconded to such a division from other agencies in order to provide support in complex areas of investigation and prosecution.”

Mr Kilcommins said a division incorporating regulatory expertise with the knowledge to prosecute serious crime would finally tackle a culture of apathy surrounding the crime.

A long-time campaigner for tougher measures against white-collar crime, he said: “It would tackle crime in the suites as opposed to crime in the streets, which is just as serious and has a profoundly negative effect on society. We have a long history of failing to deal with white-collar crime, all the way back to 1982 Merchant Bank collapse.

“We have been moving in the right direction of late with a whole range of organisations using mostly compliance measures but a new division specifically focused on white-collar crime would allow people with a wider skillset to tackle the issue. It would be very welcome,” he said.

Director general of financial conduct at the Central Bank, Derville Rowland said: “A well-stocked enforcement toolbox is vital to ensuring the Central Bank can safeguard stability and protect consumers.”

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