Get dirty on white collar crime

This country has spent an enormous amount of money on exhaustive tribunals of inquiry that behaved as a tightly-closed shop, had no procurement procedures and whose extravagant spending was not subjected to either independent validation or expert oversight.

Compared to other jurisdictions, our authorities demonstrate little capacity to speedily and successfully prosecute white collar crime, although special investigations by the Revenue Commissioners have yielded €43.04m in tax payments from 28 cases connected to the Mahon and Moriarty Tribunals.

The scale of loss, impact on public confidence, the practical consequences of fraud and bribery on the lives of citizens, the effect of fraud, bribery and corruption on the reputation of Ireland as a safe place to conduct business, the underlying complexity and the secrecy that is inherent in corrupt transactions ought to prompt a far more robust and vigorous approach.

The recently collapsed corruption trial involving former politicians and a businessman had been heavily dependent on the evidence of a key witness. Should there not be a designated national reporting point for allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption so that the pool of evidence in such cases is enhanced and the public become more alert to corruption?

Observations by individuals, based on their knowledge, insight and experience that something is not quite adding up, could become valuable information leading to the thorough investigation and successful prosecution of white collar criminals — irrespective of whether the fraud is happening in the present, took place in the past or is being planned.

It is up to the authorities to facilitate this by showing clear leadership and educating the public on how to recognise indicators, report fraud, bribery and corruption and for juries to understand the issues.

The Serious Fraud Office undertakes this role in the UK. The cost of prosecuting fraud cases there last year was equivalent to €0.74 per person. The cost of the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals, are of the order of €366 million, €80 per person and there has only been a single conviction.

There urgently needs to be zero tolerance of white collar crime or the fuzzy excuses for not dealing with it conclusively.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary

Co Dublin

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