The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has 30 targets in its sights in Cork but has asked the public for more tip-offs about people who may be living suspiciously lavish lifestyles.
A total of 16 CAB investigations are under way in the Cork City Garda Division, with 10 in Cork West and four in Cork North, said CAB’s chief bureau officer, Patrick Clavin, yesterday.
He said CAB has some 900 live investigations nationally, with almost half of those focusing on targets living in the greater Dublin area.
There are almost 70 targets of CAB in the Limerick city and county area, with just over 40 in the Louth area.
While Mr Clavin said the Cork figures are relatively low from a national perspective, the bureau would like to hear from people in the region with any concerns about how someone has accrued their wealth.
Do you suspect someone’s lifestyle is funded by crime? If you do, contact us. Contact CAB today so we can make them pay and take it away,” he said.
He made his appeal during a briefing to the Cork City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) — the latest in a series of CAB briefings to JPCs nationwide designed to encourage communities to better engage with CAB.
Mr Clavin said there was a perception that CAB was secret and does not “get out and engage” with communities.
He said it has often been said that the “dogs in the streets know who the criminals are” but he said it was sometimes unclear to people about how to engage with, or alert or tip off CAB.
He added: “There was also a perception that CAB was only targeting the godfathers of crime. But if somebody contacts us with a tip, we will never require them to give evidence in court. We can assure absolute protection.
“All we need is a clue. We will conduct our own inquiries into their wealth or their criminal activity.”
Mr Clavin said CAB targets criminals with the sole purpose of seizing assets using proceeds of crime legislation.
However, he said the agency can also tax the proceeds of crime and recover the over-payments of social welfare.
He said its profilers and investigators have access to a range of databases and work extensively to prepare lists of potential targets for investigation.
Mr Clavin said those initial investigations take place discreetly and often reveal a completely legitimate source of wealth such as inheritance or investment.
However, he said in cases where criminality is discovered, and assets identified which are the proceeds of crime, a full investigation is launched.
He also outlined the range of legal powers CAB has at its disposal to seize assets.
Those powers were firmed up in 2016 following amendments to legislation which included the reduction of the threshold value of an asset which can be seized — from €13,000 to €5,000.
That allows a bureau officer to, in certain circumstances, seize without court order an asset worth from €5,000, for an initial period of 24-hours.
The period can be extended by the chief bureau officer to 21 days.
Mr Clavin said that power has been invoked 10 times since the legislation was amended, and was usually related to the seizure of vehicles.
He also confirmed the bureau has seized bitcoin, the virtual currency.
Sinn Féin councillor Stephen Cunningham sought assurances from CAB about the protections in place for people who are the targets of initial CAB inquiries.
Mr Clavin said they are very mindful that people may maliciously report neighbours.