Seanad debates

Monday, 1 February 2021

Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2020: Second Stage


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

11:00 am

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to present the Bill to the House. I am pleased that it received general support on its recent passage through the Dáil. I am hopeful that Senators will be similarly supportive.

This legislation transposes the criminal justice elements and several of the non-criminal justice elements of the Fifth EU Anti-money Laundering Directive 2018/843. This directive builds upon the fourth anti-money laundering directive to better equip to the Union to prevent the financial system from being used for money laundering and terrorist financing. Money laundering underpins and enables most forms of organised crime. It allows criminal groups to further their operations, onceal their assets and use the proceeds in legitimate financial systems and markets. By pursuing the proceeds of crime, we can bring those responsible to justice and meaningfully the incentives to commit crimes in the first place.

The work of the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, and the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, GNECB, is crucial in identifying and tracing such proceeds. An Garda Síochána has been allocated an unprecedented budget of €1.952 billion for 2021. Competitions are currently under way to strengthen the staffing levels in the GNECB financial intelligence unit and the GNECB itself, as well as in the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE. Investment in the GNECB will see its number of officers increase from 46 to 112. There will also be significant investment in ICT.

We have seen far too many recent examples of so-called money mules, where young or vulnerable people are drawn into allowing their bank accounts to be used to launder money. It is vital to emphasise that a person who acts as a mule may be convicted of the primary offence of money laundering and face extremely serious consequences.A conviction carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. It can affect visa applications and the ability to work in the financial sector and it can affect the ability of the person to access financial products in the future.

The fifth anti-money laundering directive places a renewed focus on the gatekeepers of our financial system. It ensures there is increasing transparency by bringing further institutions within the scope of the regulatory framework and by combating the use of new trends and technologies employed by criminals. In particular, it brings several new designated persons under the existing legislation, including property services providers, as well as dealers and intermediaries in the art trade. It limits the anonymity related to virtual assets service providers and wallet providers, but also for prepaid cards. It broadens the criteria for the assessment of high-risk third countries and improves the safeguards for financial transactions to and from such countries. It prevents credit and financial institutions from creating anonymous safe deposit boxes. It also provides for ministerial guidance to clarify the scope of "prominent public functions" falling under the "politically exposed person", PEP, regime.

There are, of course, already robust and extensive anti-money laundering laws in place in Ireland. The existing Act, as amended, runs to almost 150 sections, with the majority of those sections concerning designated persons and their obligations. A person commits a money laundering offence if he or she, among other things, uses, conceals, disguises, transfers, acquires, converts or removes from the State the proceeds of crime. This applies if the person knows or believes that he or she is handling the proceeds of crime or is reckless as to whether he or she is doing so.

Ireland's position as a leading international financial services centre places an even greater importance on ensuring that we never become a weak link. My Department works closely with the Department of Finance which is also engaged in giving effect to certain provisions of the directive, notably with regard to the registration and supervision of virtual assets service providers and for the designation of classes of legal instruments for the central register of beneficial ownership of trusts.

I turn now to the specific provisions of the Bill. Sections 1 to 4, inclusive, contain provisions which update various definitions in the 2010 Act to bring it into line with the definitions used in the fifth directive. In particular, section 3 provides for the definitions of the new entities that will be considered designated persons under the Act. This includes new definitions of property service provider, virtual asset service provider and custodian wallet provider.

Section 5 amends section 25 of the 2010 Act and brings the new entities under the designated person provisions who are required to apply anti-money laundering measures in the course of their business. These new designated persons include letting agents, virtual asset service providers and high-value art dealers and intermediaries in that trade.

Section 6 amends section 33 of the 2010 Act and provides for a number of technical amendments, including an obligation to carry out customer due diligence when required to contact the customer under any other enactment.

Section 7 amends section 33A of the 2010 Act and provides for lowering the value limits for carrying out simplified due diligence on e-money instruments. This means that a person supplying e-money instruments, such as a prepaid card, will be required to conduct customer due diligence when the value of the requested card is €150 or higher. The existing threshold is €250.

Section 8 amends section 35 of the 2010 Act and provides that where a designated person is entering a business relationship with another entity, that person must take steps to obtain the relevant information from the register of beneficial ownership of trusts, corporate entities or financial vehicles, as appropriate, and must not engage in that business relationship until the relevant information is obtained.

Section 9 amends section 36A of the 2010 Act to give effect to a technical amendment to the wording of the directive in respect of which transactions require further examination.

Section 10 amends section 37 of the 2010 Act to provide for the Minister for Justice, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to issue guidance to competent authorities on the prominent public functions that will give rise to a person being designated as a politically exposed person.

Section 11 makes a technical amendment to section 38 of the 2010 Act to more clearly define the relevant relationship.

Section 12 amends section 38A of the 2010 Act and provides for a detailed list of enhanced due diligence measures that the designated person is required to apply when dealing with a customer established, or residing, in a high-risk third country.

Section 13 makes a technical amendment to section 40 of the 2010 Act in respect of information to be received from a relevant third party.

Section 14 places a requirement on the financial intelligence unit, FIU Ireland, to provide, where practicable, feedback in respect of suspicious transaction reports made to it. This reflects existing administrative practice.

Section 15 amends section 51 of the 2010 Act and provides for a defence to proceedings in respect of "tipping off" where the designated person can prove that the entity to which the information was disclosed was a specified financial institution that is connected to the designated person or part of the same group structure.

Section 16 makes a technical amendment to section 55 of the 2010 Act in respect of record-keeping. Section 17 amends section 58 of the 2010 Act and prohibits credit or financial institutions from creating anonymous safe deposit boxes. Section 18 amends section 60 of the 2010 Act and assigns a supervising competent authority for the new designated persons under the amendment to section 25. Section 19 amends section 63B of the 2010 Act and provides for additional measures in respect of co-operation between the competent authorities in different member states.

Section 20 amends section 63D of the 2010 Act and updates the provisions relating to persons employed by competent authorities in line with the updates in the fifth directive. Section 21 inserts a new section 63E into the 2010 Act. The new section provides that each competent authority must establish effective and reliable mechanisms to encourage the reporting of breaches of the Act. It also requires a competent authority to provide a secure communication channel for such reporting. Section 22 amends section 65 of the 2010 Act and provides for additional detail that is to be included in the annual money laundering reports of self-regulating bodies. Section 23 makes a technical amendment to section 84 of the 2010 Act. Section 24 repeals and replaces section 101 of the 2010 Act and inserts new provisions for the establishment of a trust or company service provider appeal tribunal.

Section 25 inserts Chapter 9A after Chapter 9 to create a registration and supervision regime for anti-money laundering, AML, purposes in respect of virtual asset service providers. Section 26 inserts a new Chapter 9B in the 2010 Act to provide for the designation of classes of expressed trusts for the purpose of establishing a central register of beneficial ownership of trusts. Regulations to be issued by the Minister for Finance will follow the enactment of this Bill and the register will be managed and maintained by the Revenue Commissioners. Sections 27 and 28 amend and update the risk factors set out in Schedules 3 and 4 to the 2010 Act. The amendments are to provide for the relevant updates in the fifth directive. Section 29 is a technical amendment to bring information under the money laundering directive into the confidentiality and information exchange provisions of the Central Bank Acts. Section 30 provides for the Short Title and commencement provisions of the Bill.

This is an important Bill. By enhancing Ireland's already extensive AML regime, it will act as a further tool to combat global organised crime, protect the financial system and ensure that we meet the highest international standards. Combating such crime is a Government priority. I look forward to hearing the views of Senators and ask for their co-operation in the passage of this legislation through the House.

Photo of Robbie GallagherRobbie Gallagher (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State to the House to discuss this important legislation. I listened attentively to his contribution. I welcome that increased financial and personnel resources will be made available to beef up the Garda Síochána's specialised unit and address an ongoing problem.

We in Fianna Fáil are delighted to support this legislation, which further strengthens our protections against money laundering. The warnings issued recently by the Garda on the use of so-called money mules were another reminder, if one were needed, that the issue of money laundering is, unfortunately, alive and well in this and many other countries. It shows that we must always be alive to the need to address the ever-changing picture of money laundering.

As the Minister of State outlined, the Bill is significant legislation for tracking money laundering. Money laundering is a crime that helps serious criminals and terrorists to function. By extension, it destroys many lives in the process. Criminals are always alert to opportunities to exploit the EU's borders. As such, EU-wide measures are vital if we are to tackle the issue. The inclusion of provisions relating to virtual currencies is particularly welcome. It recognises the realities of modern banking and the likely modes of money laundering.

I understand that many amendments will be discussed. I would welcome the Minister of State's comments on changes insofar as trusts are concerned and the implications of same in respect of trusts that have been dealt with already.Is the legislation retrospective or will it only apply from now?

I also note with disappointment that we, the taxpayers of the country, must pick up the tab for a €2 million fine for the delays in putting the directive on the Statute Book. Will the Minister of State comment on the reason for the delay? How long will be devoted to addressing this legislation? I fully support the idea of it passing Second Stage this afternoon. Realistically, when can we expect the legislation to have been dealt with in its entirety?

I again thank the Minister of State for his contribution. I look forward to his responses in respect of the issues that I and my colleagues are raising.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

This legislation is somewhat overdue. As Senator Gallagher notes, the delay in introducing it has resulted in a €2 million penalty being imposed on the State. Further enforcement action is in the pipeline, which is unfortunate. On the other hand, as the Bill is before us now, we must deal with it on its merits.

I wish to indicate at this stage that I have no major problems with the Bill as long as its provisions will be reasonably enforced. The problem with money laundering legislation to date is that it is not being reasonably enforced in some respects. Senator Buttimer and I have discussed the politically exposed persons provisions on occasion. I qualify on two grounds to be a politically exposed person. The first is that I am a former Minister and the second arises because I am a Member of the Seanad. All of us are politically exposed persons in that respect.

As a result of a campaign of enforcement by the Central Bank, the various financial institutions began to get their act together recently in a very concerted manner. I found myself being asked by one institution, which afforded me a mortgage 18 years ago to finance the building of a holiday home, to explain the source of all my wealth. Some of the forms we are asked to complete go far beyond what is reasonable. They ask us to produce copies of tax returns across the period of accumulation of wealth and copies of wills under we may have inherited money. Bearing in mind that I have for approximately 12 years conducted business with a bank which sees everything going into and out of my account, it asks me the odd time where certain moneys came from. Paying the mortgage means money leaves that account via direct debit to a second institution. I have a Visa card and Mastercard, and I have been asked by the providers of those services to fill out forms explaining where I have got my money from, etc.

Worse than that is the completely unreasonable request that my spouse and children should also be subject to this, if the banks knows who my spouse and children are, because they are politically exposed persons within the meaning of the legislation. To ask of any of us that our spouses should be required to prove the source of their wealth in order to keep a current bank account or whatever open is entirely unreasonable. If it is going to be required, there must be some degree of proportionality as to the capacity of people to gather together all these records, especially when they are in the 18th year of a 20-year mortgage, for example.The threat was that they would discontinue my mortgage. I said, "That's fine, I'll take it if you like". However, it is absurd, especially if there is one lead bank in respect of an individual who knows where the money is coming from and who does keep on eye on where the money comes in and out of and other institutions are being dealt with on the basis of direct debits. It is absurd that the direct debit institutions, which really are derivative, should be asked to implement a massive amount of research to find out where the money is coming from in terms of another bank in Ireland.

The fourth directive, which was passed, provided, in recital 35, that identification of account holders and depositors could be effectively taken on trust from another financial institution without prejudice to the obligation of the derivative institution to report any suspicious transactions. The "know your client" provisions that are currently being imposed by the banks, I believe at the behest of the Central Bank, are entirely unreasonable. No provision is made for what is proportionate. What is to happen if one of my children simply disregards the obligation to account for his or her money over the years? How does that really impinge on whether I am a suspect for money laundering? I believe it is overkill.

I note that express trusts are to be made the subject of a central registry here. That will be a fairly significant imposition in terms of notifying somebody in authority on a central basis, setting up a register and keeping the register up to date and the like for express trusts. There are many express trusts – family trusts, education trusts for children with disability and all the rest of it. There are all sorts of issues where express trusts may come into existence. It may be easy in continental Europe to provide for registration of these trusts because perhaps they require to be formalised in a centralised way, by formal deeds or whatever in a sense in which they are not in the common law countries of which Ireland is the last remaining survivor in the European Union.

I intend on Committee Stage to introduce some legislation to protect politically exposed persons, including Oireachtas Members, from disproportionate, intrusive and repetitive examination of every credit card they ever had as a condition of keeping the credit card in existence. It is nonsense. It does not serve any useful purpose and it creates quite a lot of difficulties for banks, Oireachtas Members, their spouses and dependants. I know the Minister of State said that he wanted Ireland’s standards to be the highest but it is not a high standard to require my sons to explain their wealth. That is nonsense. It has nothing to do with whether I am somebody who is going to launder money and it is absurd that that should be part of our law.

Photo of Barry WardBarry Ward (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach agus cuirim fáilte ar ais roimh an Aire Stáit. In the first instance I want to welcome this legislation. As the Minister of State pointed out at the outset of the debate, this furthers and refines the measures at European level to ensure that the State can tackle money laundering, deal with issues surrounding money laundering and the financing of organisations like terrorist and illegal organisations and it is tremendously important.

As I have said in this context on a number of occasions, it is also important that this legislation be legible to ordinary people. This is amending legislation. It amends not just the 2010 Act because that Act has been amended by the 2018 Act so reading this document is incredibly difficult because almost every section amends another Act. It means that for an ordinary person who wants to see what the law says it is extraordinarily difficult to penetrate the dense nature of this Bill. That could be overdone if we adopted a practice in these Houses of passing consolidated legislation every time.Instead of amending the Act, we should pass another Bill, repeal the earlier legislation and have one single version of the law on money laundering, anti-terrorist financing, etc. I often say that because it is something we should consider. I recognise it creates administrative challenges but it would make our law a much more penetrable and legible corpus for ordinary citizens, as well as for lawyers. I say that as somebody who goes through it relatively regularly.

Mention has been made of the fines Ireland has sustained as a result of the late passage of this legislation. The deadline for the passage and implementation of the legislation was 10 January 2020. Anybody with an eye on politics will know that perhaps politicians' minds were on other matters at that stage in the process. It is unfortunate that we are late transposing the directive. I hope the Bill will enjoy support and pass quickly through the House of the Oireachtas.

In that regard, I will raise several points about the legislation's content in the same vein as the points made by Senator McDowell on this and other anti-money laundering legislation. There is a real danger that in implementing these rules and regulations for commercial entities in the State, the bureaucracy will go into overdrive and put in place measures that it says comply with the legislation but that we all recognise go far beyond what the law actually requires. This has been the case for many years, even with respect to establishing identity, proof of address, etc., when opening a bank account. The banks invariably require more forms of proof of address and identification than the actual anti-money laundering legislation requires. It is totally unnecessary. It does not make the system stronger and does not stop people from money laundering or make money laundering more difficult.

While such measures are important and one should have to establish one's identity, it should not be to the satisfaction of some bureaucrat in a bank's head office, wherever that might be, who has decided to go one step further than the legislation. There is a real danger that legislation like this becomes a charter for banks to create another barrier for people setting up an account or, indeed, changing bank, shopping around, moving an account elsewhere or using the competitive measures that the State is also trying to push from the other side.

It is important the message goes out that there are onerous responsibilities as a result of this legislation but that banks, commercial institutions, designated persons and others covered by this legislation do not need to go beyond them. The know-your-client provision has been represented. Of course banks should know who their clients are. It seems to me, however, that whenever I ring my bank, nobody knows who I am and the only person I can speak to is in a call centre somewhere and not in my bank branch. Banks cannot have it both ways. If they want to serve their clients, that is exactly what they should do, instead of hiding behind legislative measures.

As Senator McDowell pointed out there are onerous provisions regarding people designated as politically exposed persons. We should not underestimate this. I too have received many forms from my bank, some of which asked me for extraordinary details. My bank asked me to account for my income well beyond what the Revenue Commissioners might ask me to do if they were auditing me, for example. It seems quite unreasonable.

The provision in section 10, which amends section 37 of the 2010 Act, expands the definition of a politically exposed person to include an individual performing a prescribed function. I presume it is intended that the Minister prescribe that function. It is not clear to me where in the Bill the Minister is empowered to do that. Perhaps it is already contained in the 2010 Act. Will the Minister of State clarify where the power to prescribe those functions lies and how we will define the further expansion of that class of politically exposed persons?

Section 5 involves an expansion of designated persons. In the same way that politically exposed persons have onerous obligations, so too do designated persons. Section 25(1)(f) of the 2010 Act will now bring in letting agents who are dealing with properties where the monthly rent is more than €10,000, while section 25(1)(c) deals with art dealers and art valued at over €10,000. I do not have a difficulty with either of those provisions. The majority of transactions are at the upper end and it is entirely appropriate that they would be pitched there. However, it might be worth considering index-linking the €10,000 figure to avoid having to revise it upwards in 15 years' time to account for the fact that inflation in property and art prices or general inflation has brought into the net of designated persons a load of people who are not required to be there.Index-linking might overcome that.

I also welcome the slight relaxation, in section 10 which amends section 37 of the principal Act, of the obligation on designated persons to examine the background and purpose of transactions that are unusually large or complex. The insertion of the words "as far as possible" appears to be a reasonable response to a difficult obligation on designation persons and a measured response to the fact that they may have to do more than is reasonable.

On the whole, I welcome this legislation. There is a great opportunity, as the Minister of State has said, to refine what the European Union does and what we as a national Government and State do. It is important. On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I express support for the legislation and hope it enjoys a swift passage through the House.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and I welcome this Bill on behalf of the Labour Party as my colleague, Deputy Howlin, did in the Dáil. It is an extremely important area of focus. It is a complex area and the Bill is largely technical in nature.

I join other colleagues in expressing concern at the delay in bringing this Bill forward. It was introduced on Second Stage in the Dáil on 22 September last and took three months to proceed through the Dáil. It is a concern that there have been such delays, even at that late stage following its introduction in the Oireachtas. We are happy to support it and to expedite its passage in any way we can but it is most unfortunate to see that we are already in breach of the timeline set out in the EU directive and have already been fined €2 million, as I understand. That €2 million could have been better spent enhancing our capability and capacity to enforce the measures in the legislation and providing necessary enforcements against the transnational aspect of money laundering which is directly addressed in the legislation.

Deputy Howlin raised on Second Stage in the Dáil the issue of resourcing of the enforcement bodies and I will refer to those briefly. We have the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, GNECB, formerly the Garda Bureau for Fraud Investigation, GBFI. I understand the GNECB is now the main entity that will oversee the implications and enforcement of this legislation and the rules in it, as well as the rules in the primary legislation on money laundering, although the Criminal Assets Bureau and other agencies will also be involved. Is the GNECB adequately resourced for the task? Deputy Howlin recently asked a parliamentary question seeking the full complement of the GNECB, which he found to be 72 gardaí, 19 civilian staff and three accountants. The question is whether that provides sufficient expertise, particularly on the financial side, to deal with the sort of complex transnational crime that is being targeted through this legislation. I understand the complement of accountants on the GNECB has not been greatly enhanced since the GBFI was in operation, even though the volume of cash and resources flowing through Ireland has increased immeasurably and is likely to increase further with the advent of Brexit.

Colleagues across this House and elsewhere will be aware of the huge role that Ireland plays in international financial services. Some 250 leading financial services firms operate out of Ireland, half of the world's top 50 banks have representation and transact business in Ireland and more than €1.8 trillion in funds are administered from Ireland. We have all seen what impact that has on our GDP, so I will not go through that. Clearly, we are not a small player in international financial services and that has implications for any legislation dealing with financial crime and money laundering on a transnational basis. Our reputation has been significantly dented in the past by measures such as the double Irish and particular mechanisms used to attract foreign direct investment. We have to be clear not only that we have the legislative infrastructure in place but also that we have in place the mechanisms necessary to ensure financial services can operate on our island subject to proper enforcement and oversight. It is unfortunate in that context that we have seen this lengthy delay in the implementation of the EU directive. That does not send out an appropriate signal of our seriousness about dealing with this issue.

I will refer to issues colleagues have raised. Senator Ward talked about the codification of criminal legislation and I absolutely share his view.It is unfortunate that the Bill, like so many other criminal Bills, cannot be read without reference to primary legislation and to an overarching legislative structure. There is a strong case to be made for the consolidation and codification of criminal legislation in many different areas, not least here in regard to financial crime and money laundering. The law is rendered unnecessarily complex by the way in which this type of legislation is brought in.

I refer also to Senator McDowell's comments the concept of politically exposed persons, PEPs. I entirely agree with him regarding concerns about disproportionality. We are all aware why the PEP rules were introduced and the necessity of rules in this regard, but we have to examine their proportionality. I look forward to seeing Senator McDowell's amendments. Deputy Howlin raised in the Dáil the issue of somebody who had been elected to the national executive of our party who told him that he had been notified by his bank that he was a PEP. The person asked what a PEP was and what it meant for him. This citizen is not elected to any national parliamentary office, as we all are, but to a national executive. I had not been aware that PEP rules extended that far. Nor had I been aware, until Senator McDowell spoke, that they extended to adult children, although I had been aware that they extended to partners and spouses. As a national Legislature, we need to reconsider the proportionality of their application and to ensure we do not unduly deter people who could make a contribution to political life from entering it. I make these observations while recognising the necessity for rules concerning PEPs.

I will conclude with an issue close to my heart that is relevant to this legislation. This legislation deals with money laundering as a worldwide crime and the aftermath of issues in kleptocracies, where regimes have robbed their own people of raw resources. The immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union is a case in point. In that context, I urge the Minister of State to support the many calls that have been made for the bringing forward of an Irish Magnitsky Act, that is, an Act to honour the memory of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison after being involved in an investigation into fraud involving Russian tax officials.

Many colleagues will be aware of the case, which has been publicised so remarkably well by Bill Browder, the American-born businessman who has published books on the issue and whom I had the pleasure of meeting when he came to Leinster House in 2019 to make the case for legislation to bring to account the sort of criminal actions that led to the death of Sergei Magnitsky. A number of jurisdictions have passed legislation, as we know, including the US in 2012, Britain, Canada, Lithuania and Latvia. The case for such legislation has been strengthened immeasurably in recent days in light of the protests over the treatment of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition politician.

I make those remarks in support of the Bill and restate the support of my party for its passage.

Photo of Niall Ó DonnghaileNiall Ó Donnghaile (Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit agus gabhaim buíochas leis as a bheith linn don díospóireacht inniu. I express my concern and disappointment, shared by colleagues, at the fine imposed on the State as a result of the delay in the passage of the Bill. Without over-egging the pudding, that is an important point to put on record once again, for all the reasons articulated by colleagues.

As has been said, this is significant and substantial secondary legislation and it is primarily technical in nature. The Minister of State will be aware that my colleagues in Sinn Féin, as well as other parties and groups in the Dáil, have engaged on it throughout. It has received broad support and he will have encountered a range of views and observations on it in that House as well. I appreciate what colleagues have said about some aspects of the Bill and its consequences that may impact on us. It is important to remember that the crux of the legislation is not only about allowing the State to respond to the understood or conventional methods of money laundering and financial crime, but also about allowing evolving methods of such crime to be combated and dealt with.That is why the legislation is so important as a response to the threat, including to citizens, of financial crime and money laundering. I agree with the point made that appropriate, rolling implementation and enforcement of this legislation will be key as we move forward.

Like others, I do not want to prolong this debate on Second Stage needlessly. As outlined by our colleague, Senator McDowell, amendments will be submitted. I look forward to an informed debate as we pass this legislation through the House as speedily and effectively as possible, which I hope will be the case.

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senators for their constructive and significant contributions, which are welcome.

To clarify, the €2 million fine refers to the previous transposition under the fourth directive. So far, we have not been fined under that arrangement or the associated legislation but, nonetheless, we are at risk. In that regard, I appreciate the Senators' facilitation of our trying to pass the Bill as quickly as possible.

On the issues concerning politically exposed persons and implementation, implementation is not a matter under the legislation itself; it will be down to interpretation. As set out in this Bill, the arrangement is as required under the directive but I certainly hear the Senators' concerns. I remember getting a phone call from my bank manager a few months ago on my own position. When filling in a form, I stated I was the chair of the board of management of a primary school. I got another phone call about two days later in which the caller wanted to know the sources of finance of the primary school. I started to explain colour runs, cake sales and corporate coin collections. The serious concern is that the obligations cause a chilling effect on people entering politics or voluntary roles. There can be overly officious interpretations of some of this legislation. Given the importance, it needs to be guarded against. We need to seek clarification. I look forward to further consideration of this issue on Committee Stage.

Trusts will primarily be a matter for the Minister for Finance. The provisions are flexible and allow for appropriate designation to be made by the Minister for Finance once passed. Again, we can get into further detail on that on Committee Stage because there can be an impact.

The Labour Party, through Deputy Howlin, has produced Magintsky legislation. It is a very worthy proposal and it is being considered very carefully and seriously by the Department of Justice. It has been submitted to the Attorney General for his consideration. I expect and believe such legislation will have to be passed in this country.

On the overall point, on delays, there is no question but that there has been significant tardiness in the transposing of EU directives. Very often, it does not happen until very late in the day. This Bill is very complex in the sense that it affects both justice and finance but I am in a position to say that, since I became Minister of State at the Department of Justice, I have been trying to take control of the transposition of directives whose transposition has been delayed. There has been significant progress on the outstanding directives requiring transposition. For example, the legislation on the supervision directive was transposed just before Christmas. The legislation on the fifth EU money-laundering directive, which was before the Dáil last September, is now before the Seanad. The directive on the fight against fraud regarding the Union's financial interests by means of criminal law, the PIF directive, is working its way through the Dáil as quickly as possible. The criminal justice (mutual recognition of custodial sentences) Bill and the criminal justice (smuggling of persons) Bill are both in an advanced stage of drafting and are on the priority list for publication before Christmas. I assure Senators that I have got hold of the directives requiring transposition. I intend to get through those that are behind schedule as quickly as possible. The only reason we have not got through more at this point is the effect of the Covid restrictions and the associated difficulty in getting slots.The Whip's office has a Standing Order request from me. If any gaps can be found in the Seanad or the Dáil schedule, I am ready to go in and push this legislation through as quickly as possible.

I appreciate Senators' co-operation. I thank them for it and for their generous support of the Bill. There are a number of important key points that we will have to consider and discussion in more detail on Committee Stage.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

With regard to the issue I raised and on which others have supported me, can the Minister of State indicate whether the Department is willing to engage in advance on draft amendments? It would be a big help rather than to run up against a stone wall on Committee Stage.

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

There is absolutely no difficulty with that.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank everyone for their contributions and the Minister of State for coming to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Robbie GallagherRobbie Gallagher (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Next Monday.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Monday, 8 February 2021.

Sitting suspended at 14.46 p.m. and resumed at 15.20 p.m.