Seanad debates

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Criminal Justice Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed)


Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

1:05 pm

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)
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We will now resume Second Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill 2013. The Leader has the floor.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Thank you, Acting Chairman. I was just about to conclude when the debate was adjourned yesterday. I commend the Bill to the House. It is vital that we provide the operational tools to the Garda and other enforcement agencies to enable them to combat terrorism and money laundering.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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This Bill, originally entitled the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2013, amends the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010. Some of the amendments were beyond the scope of the original Title and, as such, it has been renamed.

Before dealing with the significant money laundering and terrorist financing sections of the Bill, I will begin by focusing on the changes that have necessitated its new Title. The amendments inserted at Part 3 deal with serious threats to life or property arising from a remote explosive device, similar to the powers already in operation in other parts of the world. Such provisions are in place in Britain and Northern Ireland, for instance, covering any event where a mobile telephone could be used as a detonation trigger which is enabled upon ringing the handset. Such set-ups are frequently found in bombing devices. Part 3 allows for a two-tier process which will render these devices unviable by means of shutting down mobile telephone reception in a given area for a set period of time. It is a sad fact of modern-day security that terrorists are willing to take advantage of such cowardly stratagems which cause terrible loss of life and limb, as seen in countless tragic events in recent years.

The provision in Part 3 is necessary to ensure we have the proper mechanism and tools in place to deal with such eventualities. The system provides for a two-step process with decisions at ministerial and Garda Síochána level. An application must be made by a garda of assistant commissioner rank or higher to the Minister for authorisation to issue directions for the restriction of mobile telephone coverage in a given area. There is a 24-hour limit on the period for which such an authorisation may be acted upon. A central element of Part 3 is the proposed section 24 which provides for a member of the Garda of chief superintendent rank or higher, having received a ministerial authorisation, to direct a mobile telephone service provider to cease providing services in a particular area at a particular time. This will ensure there are adequate checks and fall-back mechanisms in place. Similarly, this direction is limited to a six-hour duration.

I will now deal with the money laundering provisions of the Bill. The Financial Action Task Force, FATF, is an international body set up to counter money laundering on a global basis. While the FATF has had some success in containing the threat internationally, new mechanisms and techniques are constantly emerging. As such, the level of money laundering has remained broadly steady in the western world in the past 15 years. This legislation comes before us in the wake of a report last year by the Central Bank which found that our financial institutions were failing to comply fully with the law in regard to money laundering. The Central Bank carried out an inspection ranging over 18 months which involved auditing 60 financial institutions throughout the country. The revelations were surprising, with a significantly lower level of compliance with the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 than had been anticipated.

It is clear, therefore, that a further strengthening of the rules is necessary. Moreover, as a result of our non-compliance in this area, Ireland was put on what is called the follow-up process by the FATF. Addressing deficiencies in the legislation and improving Ireland's FATF rating were identified by the Central Bank as vital elements in improving our ability to compete for international business. The third money laundering directive from the European Union was enacted under the previous money laundering Act. However, a fourth anti-money laundering directive is expected later this year, which may necessitate further legislation in this area in the future.

I am mindful of the cost of compliance with measures to combat money laundering. In this regard, I am satisfied to see that the main proposed amendment to the 2010 Act relates to customer due diligence measures rather than transaction monitoring. The Bill deals adequately with a number of issues in respect of money laundering, terrorist financing and other specific aspects of potential terrorist and criminal activity. I commend it to the House.

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)
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As there are no other speakers indicating, I invite the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, to reply.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadóirí go léir a labhair ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. Tá na leasuithe atá á dhéanamh ag an mBille seo bunaithe ar eolas atá ag na gardaí agus ag an Roinn le trí bliana anuas.

We must constantly strive to ensure that the provision in our law to combat money laundering is of the highest calibre. I take this opportunity to commend the work of the Garda money laundering investigation unit which, in co-operation with the Revenue Commissioners, undertakes extremely important and complex domestic and international investigations. Senator Feargal Quinn mentioned the need for financial investigations to be carried out in tandem with investigations into other crimes such as human trafficking. I assure him that the Garda Síochána draws on all its specialist units, including the money laundering investigation unit, to support multifaceted investigations. We all absolutely condemn those who would and have used explosives to terrorise, maim and kill. Such appalling activities deserve and have our contempt and abhorrence.

At the opposite end of the scale are the tremendous commitment, dedication, professionalism and bravery of those who put themselves in harm's way to protect citizens. The men and women of the Defence Forces, the Garda Síochána, the fire service and so on, who respond to 999 calls and must act when a bomb is discovered, deserve our deepest gratitude. They put their own lives on the line for us and thus represent the very highest in human generosity and courage. The annual memorial day for members of the Garda was held just ten days ago. It is sad to recall all of those on the roll of honour who died in the line of duty. The roll now contains 87 names, the latest being that of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. His murder was an unspeakable act and nothing we say can lessen the pain for his family and colleagues. They can be assured, however, that we will not forget the evil that was done, nor Detective Garda Donohoe's service, courage and ultimate sacrifice.

We as legislators must do all we can to support the members of An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces in the dangerous work they undertake. The provisions in Part 3 of the Bill offer them an additional tool in dealing with the threat posed by the use of explosive devices.

While clearly the cessation of mobile telephone services represents a substantial interference in everyday life, the measures the Bill provides are absolutely necessary and proportionate. It addresses serious threats to life and it contains safeguards to ensure that its powers cannot be used lightly or for long.

I thank Senator O'Donovan for his support for the Bill and for his kind words of support for the efforts of An Garda Síochána and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter. He raised the issue of Garda resources. The principle goal of the Minister, Deputy Shatter, is to ensure that the maximum possible resources are available to An Garda Síochána in these difficult economic circumstances. Since coming into office we have increased the funding for the Garda from what was previously planned. We have funded the purchase of vehicles and new rosters have been introduced which maximise the availability of Garda personnel at peak times.

The matter of fuel smuggling and the activities of dissidents were raised by other Senators. A cross-border task force involving the PSNI, the United Kingdom HM Revenue & Customs, the United Kingdom Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Garda, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Revenue Commissioners has been established to specifically target the distribution of illegal fuel. A multi-agency investigation in March into profits from the illegal fuel trade resulted in the seizure of significant amounts of cash, laundered fuel and records relating to a fuel laundering operation, with more than 25 bank accounts now frozen on foot of this action.

Senator Bacik raised several issues. The Bill provides for a geographical area addressed by a cessation direction to potentially extend to the whole area of the State. This is tempered by the requirement of section 22(2)(c) and section 24(6) to have regard for the need to limit the effect of a cessation. While I cannot divulge the operational details of how the Garda addresses a threat of the type that the Bill addresses, I assure the House that it is envisaged that if a cessation is ever directed it will most likely be for a limited period and limited in terms of the areas affected. Having carefully considered the matter in consultation with the Attorney General's Office it was decided that the Bill would have to allow for the possibility of the geographical area theoretically covering the entire State. However, it is unlikely that an authorisation would ever be sought in these terms.

Other Senators, including Senator Norris, raised the question of access to emergency calls. Landlines will be unaffected. This Bill only provides for a cessation of mobile telephone services subject to the limitations mentioned. I am advised that it is technically feasible for mobile networks to be adjusted in order that 999 services can continue to be available during a cessation. Mobile telephone companies are required by section 25(3) to endeavour to continue to provide 999 services during a cessation. Given the urgency with which this legislation has been progressed, it has not been possible to put in place an absolute requirement to maintain the 999 call services at such short notice but mobile telephone companies will be expected to fulfil their obligations under section 25(3) to the best of their ability. This situation can be kept under review and further measures may be considered at a later stage if necessary.

The question of providing for a nominated person in the undertakings, that is, mobile telephone companies, to receive directions was also raised. The companies have co-operated fully with the Garda on the development of the procedural arrangements and the Garda is grateful for their positive and helpful engagement. The provisions will be of assistance to those companies. Putting in place this legislation will ensure that any actions they take on foot of a direction to withdraw services are required by law. I assure Senators that at an operational level An Garda Síochána has no concerns.

The question of the appropriateness of the delegation to a ministerial official as provided for in section 28 has also been raised. This measure is provided to cover situations in which the Minister is not in a position to consider an application for an authorisation. It is limited to nominated officers of assistant secretary grade or higher.

Senator Harte asked about the ability of An Garda Síochána to address a situation where the signal from a mobile telephone network in Northern Ireland might be used to detonate a bomb in the South. The Bill under discussion today can only allow for the coercive powers it contains to be directed at undertakings operating in our State. The scenario Senator Harte raised would be addressed in co-operation with the PSNI, which has powers under the law in Northern Ireland to issue directions to mobile telephone companies in Northern Ireland. Similarly, information received from the authorities in Northern Ireland about an imminent serious threat could form the basis for an authorisation and direction to companies in this jurisdiction to cease mobile telephone services in the Border area, where a signal could be used to detonate a bomb on the northern side.

Senator Norris is absolutely correct - he is a politically exposed person, PEP, but he can take comfort from the fact that he is not alone, because all of us are as parliamentarians. The third EU anti-money-laundering directive and EU convention on corruption lay down certain requirements for additional money-laundering controls for PEPs. At present, the controls only apply to PEPs resident outside the State. Technically, that makes Senator Norris an uncontrolled PEP. I am unsure what he thinks of that but I imagine he will have something to say about it.

The proposals of the Mahon tribunal for extension of those controls to PEPs resident in the State will be addressed in the context of our consideration of the fourth EU anti-money-laundering directive when it is enacted to ensure compliance with its provisions.

Reference was made to the timing of the Bill with regard to the G8 summit next month. It makes absolute sense to have the tools it provides available when a group of prominent world leaders are meeting in County Fermanagh. The summit is an occasion that terrorist groups might try to exploit. Let me be exceptionally clear, however: the powers provided by Part 3 cannot simply be used on spec. The legislation does not allow for mobile telephone systems to be shut down in case a threat might arise. An authorisation or direction can only be issued where there is an imminent serious threat. The Bill is, therefore, a balanced measure. It provides for some improvement to our anti-money-laundering and terrorist financing legislation. It provides a necessary and proportionate system for tackling explosive devices which exploit mobile telephone technology. I thank the House for consideration of the Bill today.

Question put and agreed to.

1:15 pm

Photo of Jillian van TurnhoutJillian van Turnhout (Independent)
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When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Next Tuesday, 4 June 2013.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 4 June 2013.

Sitting suspended at 2.50 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.