Tougher powers for the Criminal Assets Bureau will allow the agency target low-level criminals and seize their assets or cash initially without a court order.
The move is to counter criminals offloading cars, cash and other assets ahead of court orders freezing those proceeds of crime.
Enhanced powers for gardai to conduct covert surveillance on gangs and criminals were also signed off on at Cabinet yesterday.
The measures come after seven killings linked to the bloody Hutch-Kinahan feud in Dublin’s inner city.
CAB will soon be entitled to freeze assets immediately, which can now be valued at a minimum of €5,000 as opposed to the current threshold of €13,000. Similarly, cash amounts as low as €1,000 — rather than the current €6,500 — will also be seized in future. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the changes would allow CAB target “middle to lower-level actors” in localised organised crime.
A Government spokesman could not say how many gardaí would be part of the new special taskforce or how much money it would receive. The minister later told RTÉ that up to 50 gardai already in the force would be trained for the unit.
The new unit, to be co-ordinated by the Garda drugs and organised crime bureau, will be in addition to the armed support group and emergency response unit. It is viewed as a mini-CAB, to target the proceeds of crime.
Meanwhile, a secret meeting in a carpark between a Garda chief and the head of a Dáil committee over a Garda whistleblower has been deemed “very unusual” by a minister.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has also questioned why Public Accounts Committee chairman, John McGuinness, failed to reveal the meeting previously. His comments come after repeated calls for Martin Callinan, the former Garda commissioner, to clarify issues about the meeting.
The January 2014 meeting occurred days ahead of whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe appearing before PAC. Mr McGuinness claims Mr Callinan attempted to discredit Sgt McCabe by saying he was “not to be trusted”.
Mr Varadkar yesterday said what had transpired regarding Sgt McCabe’s claims about malpractice in the force had “vindicated” his previous defence of the whistleblower, when he was in charge of transport.
“At the time, there were stories circulating about Maurice McCabe which in my view were being put about to undermine his credibility, my own view at the time when I heard them was this is just the kind of thing that people unfortunately do to undermine people’s credibility. And I never believed them but maybe other people did.”
The minister said that it would have been helpful at the time if Mr McGuinness had revealed that he had held the secret meeting with the garda commissioner.
“It’s certainly very unusual practice [the meeting] I have to say for a secret meeting to occur in a car park between a serving garda commissioner and a chairman of a Dáil committee.”
Asked whether the former Garda chief should himself now clarify issues around the meeting, the minister said Mr Callinan had retired and that was up to him.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved