Garda Commissioner requests increased staffing for unit tasked with combating financing of terrorism

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has requested a business case for increased staffing at specialist crime bureaus, including a unit tasked with combating the financing of terrorism.

The development has emerged following revelations in the Irish Examiner this week that there are only two gardaí attached to the Terrorist Financing Intelligence Unit.

The TFIU is part of the Financial Intelligence Unit, which is based within the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau. The staffing complement has not changed despite repeated calls from an international inspection body for the unit's resources to be increased.

The inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force also called on the State to “more actively” pursue prosecutions in the area.

The FATF said the level of prosecutions to date (with just one conviction) was “not consistent with Ireland's risk profile”.

In its report in September 2017 the body said it had been reassured during its visits that it was a priority to hire further garda analysts and financial experts.

The FIU received 21,682 suspicious transactions reports (STRs) from financial institutions in 2016, up from 12,390 in 2012.

During that time period, the TFIU received a total of 4,419 STRs potentially linked to international terrorism, rising from 683 to 948. The FATF said the high number of STRs to the TFIU "may overburden" the unit.

The Irish Examiner understands that despite competitions resulting in additional staff going into the GNECB that the bureau, including the FIU, have lost and equal number of officers through retirements, promotions and transfers.

Sources have said that the bureau is “in need” of extra numbers at all ranks. In addition, it recently lost highly experienced senior officers, including Detective Superintendent Alf Martin and Detective Inspector Maureen McGrath.

The superintendent position is still vacant.

Some sources have indicated the overall strength of the GNECB stands at around 50, of which around seven staff are seconded to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

This figure is significantly lower than numbers provided in ministerial responses to parliamentary questions, which put the strength of the bureau at 73 as of July 2018, up from 66 in 2017 and 53 in 2016.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said it was “absolutely essential” that staffing at the TFIU and the FIU and the wider bureau be increased.

In response to a query regarding staffing levels at the GNECB (including the FIU and the TFIU), Garda HQ issued a statement.

“Commissioner Harris has requested a comprehensive business case for staffing in units in Special Crime operations including Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (which includes the Terrorist Financing Unit)," it said.

Once this business case is received and approved, it is anticipated that a panel of personnel for allocation to these units will be in place before the end of Q1 2019.

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