A NEW European Criminal Assets Bureau is being set up based on the success of the CAB in Ireland.
The director of Europol, the EU police co-ordinating agency, said the CAB was a role model for the rest of Europe.
“Europol is promoting that [the Criminal Assets Bureau] as best practice in other European countries,” said Rob Wainwright.
“We’re trying to raise the model of criminal assets seizure in Europe, through, in particular, the establishment of our new Europol CAB as a platform for more integrated efforts in this area.”
Mr Wainwright was speaking at a conference entitled Organised Crime, Corruption and Financial Crime, held at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin yesterday.
The new head of the CAB, Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Byrne, said there was room in the EU to “enhance co-operation” in relation to targeting the assets of organised crime.
He said there have been various decisions by the European Commission (EC) to enable EU states to develop co-operation in the area with the proposed establishment of asset recovery officers in each member state.
Chief Supt Byrne, one of the founding members of the CAB, which was set up 13 years ago yesterday, said that the Swedish presidency was overseeing a new five-year EU justice strategy.
“Within this, consideration is being given to the recognition of non-conviction based criminal asset forfeiture orders, a development Ireland would strongly support,” he said.
In Ireland, the CAB operates not on criminal law, but on civil law. The latter has a lower threshold for conviction, based on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond all reasonable doubt.
The CAB want seizure orders from the High Court here to be accepted in other EU countries. This would allow the CAB to freeze and confiscate the assets of Irish criminals located in other EU countries.
Chief Supt Byrne said the EC has already called on EU countries to find a way to recognise these orders.
He said one of the biggest problems the CAB faces is trying to trace assets. He called on the EU to promote good practice, as already in Germany and France, of centralised bank account registers. He said this would allow police authorities to identify the whereabouts of bank accounts.
Chief Supt Byrne said the CAB had, to date, seized assets worth €120 million, collected €136m in taxes and recovered €3m in social welfare payments.
“Most significantly, and most importantly, it sends a signal to criminals they will not be allowed to enjoy their ill-gotten gains,” he said.
Mr Wainwright said law enforcement agencies across the EU “need to move from co-operation to integration”, not through an EU-type FBI but “integration of knowledge” already there at national level.
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