Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said An Garda Síochána will “absolutely” help Europol, the EU police agency, in setting up a specialist unit to target the finances of European crime bosses.
He was responding to requests from Europol executive director Catherine De Bolle when she held meetings with the commissioner and other senior gardaí in Dublin last week.
Ms De Bolle, who also gave a presentation to the Institute of International and European Affairs, told the Irish Examiner that they were looking for the expertise of the Criminal Assets Bureau to assist them in creating the unit.
Ms De Bolle, accompanied by her chief of staff Brian Donald, said they hoped this could include the secondment of officers from CAB to Europol headquarters in the Hague, the Netherlands.
Speaking at a conference on policing in NUI Galway at the weekend, Commissioner Harris said CAB was a “very effective tool” in taking money out of criminal organisations.
“If you can degrade them in terms of their finances that makes a major contribution to public safety and serious criminality,” he said. “We have a model here I think other states are very interested in.”
He told the Irish Examiner:
Certainly Europol is very interested in our input in how we can help the rest of European law enforcement agencies achieve more in terms of seizing assets.
Asked if he was favouring assisting Europol with their request, he said: “As a national service and one that is entirely committed to working with Europol and our European partners we will absolutely be there in terms of providing guidance and support, no problem at all.”
He said this “may mean secondments” from CAB to Europol.
“I'm very positive about secondments,” he said. “They're a great opportunity for the organisation in terms of development, for our own members learning skills and also in promoting Ireland and law enforcement in Ireland across Europe and beyond.”
The commissioner added: “I don't know what the specifics of the asks are yet and we'll have to see, but when you look at them [secondments] there are always plenty of benefits in terms of the contribution it can make overall for citizens across Europe, and secondly for development for the individuals. It also gives us a strong place at the table.”
Ms De Bolle said the request to gardaí was on the back of increasing demands from member states for expertise in targeting and seizing the finances and assets of criminal organisations.
“We have very good collaboration with them [gardaí] and we discussed about the presence of their police service in Europol, because when we start to invest more in economic and financial crime they have a lot of experience,” she said.
She added that CAB have had “a lot of good results”.
Mr Donald said that the Garda had not yet used an existing system of secondments to Europol, where the home country continues to pay the salaries, while Europol pays accommodation costs.
“We were exploring ways how that might work for them and for us,” Mr Donald said. “He [Mr Harris] was open to it.”
Separately to secondments, there are two garda liaison officers in the Hague, while Customs have one.