Crime gangs 'targeting small business'

Organised crime gangs are increasingly targeting Northern Ireland’s small businesses for extortion, MPs were told today.

At least 4,000 businesses are victim of extortion in the North, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

In a submission to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster they called for urgent action to tackle the the growing problem they are facing from organised crime.

They told the committee extortion and racketeering by paramilitaries and illegal organisations throughout Northern Ireland was the “hidden cost of doing business”.

Their evidence was given on the same day that the Independent Monitoring Commission’s latest report said the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries were still engaged in criminal enterprises.

Addressing the committee Wilfred Mitchell, the FSB’s policy chairman, said: “We recognise that the Organised Crime Task Force has had a measure of initial success. However, more can be done at a grass-root level.

“There has never been a serious attempt by government to fully identify the core problem and find a solution to the extortion of the SME [Small and Medium Sized Enterprise] sector.”

Northern Ireland was dependent upon the SME sector and the FSB could demonstrate through research that “illegal donations are a hidden cost of doing business.”

An FSB survey recently identified that at least 6% of businesses were affected by perceived illegal donations – extortion.

The business body said over 4,000 firms could be affected.

“As well as the economic impact, the fear and intimidation many businesses face is unacceptable,” Mr Mitchell told the committee.

It was unrealistic for an individual business to report the crime as the consequences in terms of personal security and business sustainability were high, he said.

“This problem is growing throughout the province and into new locations outside the Greater Belfast area,” said Mr Mitchell.

SMEs made a vital social and economic contribution to Northern Ireland and the FSB recommended:

:: The Organised Crime Task Force make tackling racketeering and extortion against the business community a core priority.

:: Research into the cost and impact of racketeering and extortion on small business and the wider economy should be commissioned.

:: Politicians who were responsible for making decisions in the area must demonstrate a willingness to take a lead in dealing with the issue.

More in this Section

Rescue flight for collapsed Thomas Cook passengers takes off from ShannonRescue flight for collapsed Thomas Cook passengers takes off from Shannon

Emotional scenes as last ever scheduled Thomas Cook flight touches downEmotional scenes as last ever scheduled Thomas Cook flight touches down

Thomas Cook: What went wrong?Thomas Cook: What went wrong?

Report: 1,000 Brexit-related public sector jobs have been created in IrelandReport: 1,000 Brexit-related public sector jobs have been created in Ireland


Lifestyle

In January of 1994, RTÉ reporter Tommie Gorman was given a diagnosis that would change his life.Examine Yourself: Getting cancer made sense of everything for Tommie Gorman

In aid of Cancer Awareness Week, we convinced four of our columnists to bare all for our Examine Yourself campaign.Examine Yourself: Baring all for Cancer Awareness Week

It was an effervescent and often moving turn by an artist with a meaningful claim to the title of world’s most interesting pop star.Ariana Grande's opening night at 3Arena in Dublin proved why she is the world's most interesting pop star

Marian Duggan was in her 20s and could not imagine that her symptoms could be so serious, not even when a tennis-ball-size cyst was removed from her left ovary, says Helen O’Callaghan.Examine Yourself: 'I thought I was too young to have cancer'

More From The Irish Examiner