New laws to tackle white-collar crime

BANKING, corporation and finance officials face up to five years in prison if they commit any of a range of new white-collar crimes.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was eager to push through legislation to assist current investigations, including the troubled Anglo probe, and any future investigations. He said garda inquiries had been stymied by a reluctance of witnesses to make statements and that “severe delays” had been caused by claims of legal privilege over documents being sought by detectives.

He said where documentation has been provided it had often been unsorted, requiring gardaí to spend “an enormous amount of time sifting through it”.

He said he was creating an offence, punishable by up to five years in prison, where people fail to provide information to gardaí about an existing white-collar crime or one about to take place.

Under the Criminal Justice Bill:

- Gardaí can apply for a court order requiring a witness (companies as well as individuals) to provide a statement or documentation. Failure to comply is punishable by up to two years in prison.

- Anyone who falsifies, conceals or destroys relevant documentation faces up to five years in prison on conviction.

- District courts can order people to identify and categorise documentation requested by gardaí.

- District courts will be empowered to make a determination in cases where people claim documentation being sought by gardaí is protected by legal privilege.

Elsewhere, the bill allows for the postponement of detention periods to allow gardaí conduct further inquiries, including applications for documentation, before continuing questioning of a suspect.

Mr Shatter said he was using the legislation to provide for general amendments. These includes giving a formal right to suspects to have access to a solicitor before being questioned by gardaí.


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