CAB to target developers who bribed politicians

THE Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is to set up a special investigation unit to target wealthy property developers who bribed politicians and public officials.

Chief Superintendent Felix McKenna, the head of CAB, said a dedicated team of skilled personnel, assisted by forensic accountants, are likely to be involved in chasing down developers who made vast amounts of money from land deals and rezoning decisions.

Under new legislation, CAB has powers to apply to the High Court to seize assets and cash equal to the amount the person has gained by the corrupt act.

The Proceeds of Crime Act also allows the CAB to seize the assets of public officials and politicians.

CAB has seized or frozen assets from criminals worth in excess of €130 million, which includes money retrieved from social welfare and revenue fraud.

Last week, CAB secured a deal to sell a house valued at around €1m, which was bought more than 20 years ago by the late Martin Cahill, the Dublin gangland boss known as the General.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Chief Supt McKenna said the new powers should enable the CAB to target developers.

“Where we identify people or companies who paid a bribe to a public official many years ago and has benefited greatly financially since then, it may well break down to a forensic analysis of their profits to determine what portion should be confiscated by the courts,” he said.

Chief Supt McKenna said the CAB has been very successful in targeting criminals and its investigators are likely now to turn their attentions towards those who paid and accepted bribes, particularly those identified by the Mahon/Flood Tribunals.

“The tribunal is serving a very, very important cause in identifying people in public places that have benefited from monies received from developers all over this country.”

He said it would be wrong to say the bureau was going after “x amount of developers” but added: “Yes, maybe down the road we will allocate a specialised team to do that type of work for us. It’s going to involve a dedicated team of skilled personnel assisted by forensic accountants for us to build up a case to enable us to make an application to the High Court.”

Developers likely to come under the spotlight include builders Joe McGowan and Tom Brennan who were implicated in a series of corrupt payments to former Minister Ray Burke in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Flood Tribunal also implicated builder Mick Bailey in the corrupt payment to Burke in his home in 1989. Mr Bailey is one of the biggest developers on the east coast.

In 2002, the tribunal found the millionaire owner of JMSE, Joseph Murphy Snr and his son, also Joseph, were involved in a corrupt payment to Mr Burke. Mr Murphy Snr has since died.

Last night, Green Party finance spokesman Deputy Dan Boyle said his party would support Chief Supt McKenna’s proposals.

“The length of some of the tribunals and the lack of judicial response has led to public impatience and cynicism about the investigations to date,” said. “Extending the powers of CAB, given its successes in other fields in tackling criminal activity, is something we would broadly welcome.”

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