New powers to fight money laundering

Specialist agencies are to have their powers boosted under new anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.

The EU-driven provisions will increase the capabilities of the Garda Financial Intelligence Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Addressing an Oireachtas committee, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said Britain intended to continue its “very high level of cooperation” on matters to do with security and crime, including money laundering and terrorist financing.

Speaking on proposed legislation to enact an EU directive on such areas, the minister said he met Garda management last week on its “Brexit strategy” and contingency planning.

The Oireachtas justice committee yesterday held the committee stage of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill.

The legislation will:

- Increase access to information on the beneficial ownership of trusts by agencies such as FIU and CAB;

- Address risks posed by anonymous prepaid cards and virtual currencies;

- Increase cooperation between FIUs across the EU and with Europol, the EU police agency;

- Improve checks on transactions with high-risk third countries,

The directive said FIUs should have “unfettered access” to information that was essential to ensure flows of money could be properly traced and illicit networks detected at an early stage.

It said FIUs had “reported difficulties in exchanging information” based on different national definitions of certain related offences, such as tax crimes, which were not harmonised by EU laws.

The Irish FIU is based within the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and is separate from the multi-agency Criminal Assets Bureau.

Mr Flanagan said a key part of the new legislation was in relation to the sharing of information between the FIU and other law enforcement bodies in Ireland and other member states as well as Europol.

He said both the FIU and CAB had indicated to his officials that the legislation will “further enhance” their effectiveness in investigating money laundering and terrorist financing.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan backed the provisions saying financial crimes were “becoming more complex and multi-jurisdictional”. Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire also supported the law and urged the full inclusion of gambling services and bookmakers in the provisions.

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