Monday, 14 June 2021
Counterfeiting Bill 2020: Second Stage
I thank the Senators for their valuable contributions to the debate. While the Bill, for the most part, is technical in nature, its subject matter is very important and it also tangentially touches on very important issues.
Regarding the delay in bringing forward the Bill, when I was appointed as Minister of State last September, a significant number of EU directives needed to be transposed. With great thanks to the departmental officials and with the support of the Seanad, we have been able to clear out a significant number of those, including the Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Decisions on Supervision Measures) Act, the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act and the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) (Amendment) Act 2021. There was a backlog and a delay but we are working hard to clear that backlog and we have gone a significant way towards doing that, and we are also dealing with this Bill today.
On the issue of white-collar crime and online corruption and crime, I reference some of those Bills we passed. The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering Terrorist Financing) Bill, which was signed by the President and enacted, seeks to tackle and update our laws in line with the EU on tackling online money laundering and terrorist financing. Cross-border measures and co-operation are fundamental. Criminals are operating cross-border and on an international scale. States need to work and co-operate together. Similarly, the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) (Amendment) Act 2021 also seeks to tackle corruption that may be happening within the Union. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, published the Hamilton review and it forms a fundamental part of the justice plan of 2021 in tackling corruption and white-collar crime. That would include any online aspects. The Minister published a cross-governmental plan on implementing the review on 19 April 2021. This sets out 22 actions to be implemented over the next 18 months. It is a very comprehensive plan which will target a great deal white-collar crime and corruption. I echo the sentiments of Senator Boyhan in thanking the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau for its sterling work in this area. It will see its number of officers rise from 46 to 112 as well as a significant investment in ICT to enable the bureau to target online white collar crime and corruption.
In accordance with the obligations under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU, and the European System of Central Banks, ESCB, statute, the ECB was consulted by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, on this Bill and an opinion from the ECB was received in February. This opinion was supportive of the Bill in general stating that the ECB welcomed the draft law, which will ensure the preservation of euro banknotes and coins in circulation resulting in continued public confidence in euro banknotes. The opinion, however, noted the CBI should be remunerated for its task regarding euro coins and, in particular, relating to the protection of the euro against counterfeiting, and there was a note of concern that this was only partially done at present. That matter was raised by Deputy Howlin in the Dáil and we addressed it then. An amendment was accepted on Report Stage in the Dáil to address any outstanding concerns regarding the ECB.
I am happy to engage with the Senators on this Bill. It is an important one that we can deal with as quickly as possible. I am happy to address any concerns Senators may have.