CAB recovered €16m in taxes and interest last year

SUSPECTS targeted by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) coughed up over €16 million in taxes and interest on undeclared income last year.

CAB also made further tax demands of €5.5m during the year, and secured long-term and temporary court orders freezing property worth a total of €2.7m to prevent individuals suspected of illegal activity from cashing in their assets.

Long-term freezing orders last seven years and for the first year time since the bureau was set up in 1996, property placed under those orders was disposed of and the proceeds passed on to the Minister for Finance for use as general exchequer funds.

The exchequer received a total of €275,875 in cash from two such transactions which are set to become a regular feature of CAB's annual workload.

CAB has frozen over €52m worth of property under seven-year orders since it was set up.

The bureau's activities last year also means the total unpaid taxes and interest collected since 1996 comes to €72.5m with a further €9m in tax demands outstanding.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said yesterday that CAB's annual report for 2004 highlighted its continued success in the fight against drug trafficking, fraud, corruption and other criminal behaviour.

"The bureau will continue, with the full support of the Government, together with the support of the general public and commercial and financial institutions, to prevent those involved in serious crime from enjoying the proceeds of their illegal activity," he said.

Drug dealers remain the main target of the bureau but its investigations also root out smugglers, fraudsters, tax dodgers and welfare cheats both within the State and in cross-Border operations involving the Assets Recovery Agency in the North and Britain.

CAB was set up in the wake of the murder of crime journalist Veronica Guerin to crack down on the so-called "untouchables" criminals who could not be pinned down under existing law for lack of evidence.

CAB officers were given powers to target the unexplained wealth of these individuals and to make tax assessments on their income and confiscate and freeze assets until they could produce proof they were legitimate earnings.

Headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Felix McKenna, it now has a staff of 50 comprising 29 gardaí as well as revenue officials and lawyers.

The cost of running the bureau last year was €5.7m.

A new initiative last year beefed up the manpower by appointing 25 divisional criminal assets profilers. These regular gardaí and Drug Squad officers, who work outside the bureau, received special training to assist in the identification and targeting of local people involved or associated with criminal activity.

The bureau hit a setback in one High Court action during the year when it was ruled some of its legal powers did not extend to foreign criminality. The ruling has prompted moves to close the loophole.

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