By Cormac O’Keeffe
FEW people have been prosecuted for money laundering in Ireland, despite the existence of powerful legislation, according to an international study.
But the gardaí, it also emerged, had "limited" resources to investigate the rapidly growing number of suspected money laundering transactions.
"Ireland has a sound legal framework in place to combat money laundering, although the number of convictions for money laundering is somewhat low," noted the report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The FATF said 15 people had been charged with money laundering offences between 2001 and 2004, with eight convictions.
The report showed sentences ranged from two to five years’ imprisonment.
Inspectors said a lack of comprehensive statistics on money laundering, prosecutions and convictions prevented a full evaluation.
Further, there has not been any convictions for terrorist financing since the offence was implemented in March 2005.
The report said Ireland’s central Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) investigated suspicious transaction reports from financial institutions and professional bodies regarding possible money laundering transactions. It said the number of suspicious transactions reports (STRs) received by the FIU had increased from 5,491 in 2004 to 10,735 in 2005.
This is due to an extension in the number of professions who now have to submit suspicious transactions to the gardaí.
The inspectors commented: "The resources available to the FIU to effectively manage and conduct analysis on the increasing number of STRs, while also performing its other anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism responsibilities are limited."
The report said Ireland’s provisions for the confiscation of the proceeds of crime "appear effective and comprehensive".
The report said investigations had indicated that credit institutions, money remittance companies, solicitors and accountants and second-hand car dealerships had been used in money laundering schemes.