The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Criminal Assets Bureau could not seize assets derived from proceeds of crime committed outside the State.
Legal sources yesterday said defence teams for foreign targets of CAB will examine the ruling and consider whether to go back to the courts and challenge the seizure of their assets.
“Those who settled with CAB don’t have a comeback, but those whose assets were seized could perhaps have comeback,” said one senior legal source.
“There are people out there looking at it. I have talked to a few people who have queries about it. It’s probably too early to say whether they would have a case.” In the case settled on Monday, a convicted British drug dealer bought a house in Co Wicklow in the 1980s for £128,000 in cash using bank drafts from England.
The 63-year-old crime boss, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also had convictions for firearms offences and jury interference. The house was valued at E400,000 in 2000. CAB applied to the High Court to make a freezing order on the house. However, the man successfully appealed to the Supreme Court on the basis that the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 did not include crimes committed in other jurisdictions.
The head of CAB yesterday said the case would not affect foreign criminals whose assets have already been frozen.
“It is impossible. Nearly all other cases involved Irish criminality as well. In a lot of those cases there was money laundering in this country,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Felix McKenna.
“This case stood out on its own. There was no Irish criminality that we could allege at the time he bought the house.” He said no money laundering legislation existed here in the 1980s when the house was purchased.
CAB was looking at the very small number of current cases which could possibly be affected by the Supreme Court’s judgment, he added.
“We are reviewing all the cases that have any references to foreign criminality. There are about two cases that might fall into the same description as this case. We’ll address every case on its own merits.”
Meanwhile, the Government will try and push through amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act, awaiting committee stage in the Dáil. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said there was an extra-territoriality provision which will apply the act to crimes outside the jurisdiction. She said a “correspondence of offence” test will apply where the crime must be an offence in both the State and foreign jurisdiction.