139. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Justice if the Criminal Asset Bureau investigates criminals who do not have assets but whose lifestyle does not match their means; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58049/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As the Deputy will be aware, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act, 1996. The Bureau has staff drawn from An Garda Síochána, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners (including Customs), the Department of Social Protection and my Department.
The Bureau has been one of the great success stories in Irish law enforcement and Minister Heather Humphreys recently marked the 25th anniversary of the formation of CAB with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Chief Bureau Officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins.
The Bureau’s remit is to target the assets, wherever situated, of persons which derive or are suspected to derive, directly or indirectly, from criminal conduct. Since its inception, the Bureau has been at the forefront of fighting organised crime in this jurisdiction – disrupting the activities of criminal gangs through the removal of their ill-gotten gains - and has been recognised as a world leader in asset investigations, tracing and forfeiture.
The Bureau works closely with Gardaí and all law enforcement agencies at national and international levels and continues to focus its efforts on targeting assets deriving from all types of criminal conduct. The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005 makes provision for the Bureau to seize assets that were generated in foreign jurisdictions. This Act enables the Bureau to cooperate fully with other international asset recovery agencies.
In summary, there must be an “asset” and there must be “evidence of criminal conduct” for the Bureau to commence an investigation and take action pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, as amended.
In saying this, if a criminal is showing signs of wealth/living beyond their means, the Bureau can commence an investigation and action may be taken under the Revenue Acts and/or Social Welfare Acts, in the absence of assets. The Bureau utilises the Garda Divisional Assets Profiler network to identify criminals who show signs of wealth and who appear to be living beyond their legitimate means.
The Deputy may be aware that CAB recently published their annual report for 2020. Some of the notable recent actions in 2020 include in excess of €4.2 million being returned to the Exchequer and thirty-one new proceeds of crime applications brought before the High Court. During 2020, a total of forty five individuals and corporate entities were assessed under the provisions of the Tax Acts, resulting in a total tax figure of €10.447m.
The Bureau serves to make Ireland a more hostile environment for the generation of proceeds of crime and sends a strong message to criminals and to local communities that profiting from crime will simply not be tolerated. In doing so, the Bureau targets lower to middle tier criminals, in addition to Organised Crime Groups.
As the Deputy is aware, CAB is accounted for in the Justice Vote. I can confirm that CAB received an additional €0.9 million funding for 2022, bringing the total budget allocation to €10.9 million, which is an increase on the €9.96 million provided for CAB in 2021.