Tough laws to target terrorist financing amid EU legal threat

The Government will today finally agree to implement strict new laws to prevent money laundering and potential terrorist financing after the EU warned Ireland would be brought to court by May 8 if it failed to impose the clampdown.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will bring the bill to today’s cabinet meeting, where he will say the new bill will give gardaí drastic new powers to inspect firms and track suspect funds in a bid to block money meant for IS and other organisations.

In early 2017, EU states including Ireland agreed to introduce strict new laws in their respective countries in a bid to clamp down on concerns extremist groups such as IS were funneling money through front companies.

However, while the agreement — outlined in the fourth EU money-laundering directive — was meant to be enacted by Ireland by June last year, it suffered a series of delays due to government concerns over its potential unexpected impact on existing Irish law.

Last summer, the EU warned Ireland the bill must be enacted as soon as possible, while in recent weeks it issued a further warning threatening Ireland with fines and a potential European court hearing unless the bill is enacted by May 8.

In response to the warnings, Mr Flanagan will today bring forward the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) amendment bill based on the EU agreement, drastically clamping down on potential suspect money being routed through Ireland.

It is understood the bill will give gardaí significant new powers to check suspect or illicit funds in this country, including those in firms that are believed to be front companies.

While Ireland is not widely seen as a hotbed for international terrorist financing, the scale of firms based in this country due to tax issues and other matters has raised EU concerns over the potential for issues in Ireland.

Mr Flanagan is also expected to bring a linked Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) bill to Cabinet today, which will seek to introduce an amendment to existing laws ensuring businesspeople who are involved in “corrupt conduct” abroad can still be pursued in this country.

Meanwhile, the cabinet is also expected to hear an update on the Brexit stand-off from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, both of whom have warned in recent days Britain must provide a coherent border and customs union plan by the end of June or face collapsing the talks.

Health Minister Simon Harris is also expected to say he will not be in favour of opposing a Dáil opposition motion seeking increases in nurses’ basic pay and a Seanad motion seeking the extension of the smoking ban to some public places, which are due to be discussed in both Houses this week.

Mr Coveney is also expected to give colleagues an official report on the benefits of ministers’ controversial St Patrick’s Day visits.

While the Irish Examiner reported yesterday the US flights for Mr Varadkar and his officials cost €32,000 alone last month, Mr Coveney is expected to point to visits to 92 cities in 38 countries led to 131 “high-level meetings”, more than 1,000 international media interviews and publicity worth at least €10m to Ireland.



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