Dáil Éireann - Volume 499 - 04 February, 1999

Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - Fraud Investigations.

5. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legislative changes, if any, he proposes to reform the criminal law relating to fraud given that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation's money laundering unit in 1998 received 850 reports of suspicious transactions from financial institutions involving in excess of £90 million. [3074/99]

Mr. O'Donoghue: Last year I secured Government approval for the preparation of a criminal justice fraud offences Bill which will take account of the recommendations of the report of the Law Reform Commission on the law relating to dishonesty and the report of the advisory committee on fraud. It will comprehensively and radically reform the law on fraud. It will also enable Ireland to adopt an important EU convention on the protection of the financial interests of the Communities as well as three protocols to the convention. The text is being drafted by the parliamentary draftsman in consultation with the Department. I expect to publish the Bill by the middle of the year.

[1455] Mr. Flanagan: I impress on the Minister the urgency of the matter. The figures for 1998, in excess of 1,200 reports of suspicious transactions involving in excess of £123 million, are far more staggering than those submitted with the question. How many persons were involved? How many files were forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions? How many persons were charged and convicted in the courts?

Mr. O'Donoghue: The Ceann Comhairle should advise the Deputy that if he is seeking statistical information, he should, in accordance with Standing Orders, table questions in the normal way. That is what I was told to do in opposition. I will communicate the information he is seeking but he is not being fair to my officials.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should confine himself to policy matters.

Mr. Flanagan: The reality is that the Minister does not have the relevant information. In 1998 the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation's money laundering unit received more than 1,200 reports of suspicious transactions involving in excess of £123 million. The Minister does not know how many persons were involved and how many were charged and convicted. I assume he will extend the relevant legislation, the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, to provide for mandatory reporting of suspicious transactions by accountants, solicitors and auctioneers, when the figures will mushroom considerably, or can this be done by regulation? Will he undertake to provide the unit with sufficient manpower and resources to allow reports of fraud to be investigated thoroughly not only by the unit but by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts?

Mr. O'Donoghue: A new Bill is not required. Designation can take place pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. Consultations are ongoing between officials of the Department and the representative bodies of the professions mentioned. I hope to be in a position to make the designation order in the near future. This will be of considerable benefit. There has been an increase in the number of reports of suspicious transactions but to expect me to have the statistical information which Members have the capacity to ask for in the House is akin to expecting me to be so prepared as to know how many March hares were in Clonmel this month.

Mr. Flanagan: The Minister is being frivolous.