47. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the Garda submission to the Law Reform Commission on white-collar crime; the measures he is taking to address the areas highlighted by An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49661/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As I understand it, An Garda Síochána made a submission directly to the Law Reform Commission during their public consultation phase. I have not received the submission in question, and so don't propose to comment on its detail.
For the information of the Deputy, Mr James Hamilton, former DPP and Anti-Corruption expert, is chairing a Review of Ireland’s Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption structures. This review is an Action Point, assigned to the Department of Justice & Equality, contained in the Government’s plan to tackle White Collar Crime, which was launched last November. Attendees include all State bodies involved in the detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of White Collar Crime.
The Law Reform Commission report on Regulatory Powers and Corporate Offences will be considered in detail by Mr Hamilton and his review group who had preliminary discussions about the report on 1 November. The Group is working to a tight timeline and is due to report in June 2019.
In addition, as the Deputy will be aware, a number of important initiatives have recently commenced and extensive legislation was passed into law on 5 June 2018 and commenced in full on 30 July. The Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act introduces a number of additional offences to give better effect to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, as well as providing for some of the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal.
The Act creates several new offences to strengthen the law on corruption in Ireland. New offences include:
- Offering or agreeing to accept a gift, consideration or advantage to induce another person to exert an improper influence over an act of a foreign or public official
- Making use of confidential information obtained in the course of duties by an official in order to gain an advantage.
- Giving a gift, consideration or advantage where a person knows or reasonably ought to know that the gift will be used to facilitate a corruption offence.
- A new strict liability offence for corporate bodies whose management, employees or subsidiaries commit a corruption offence with the intention of securing an advantage for the company. It shall be a defence for the body corporate to prove they took reasonable steps to prevent this. The penalty for conviction on indictment is an unlimited fine.
The Act extends the categories of persons, to whom the presumptions relating to corrupt donations will apply, to include family members and close business associates, as recommended by the Mahon Tribunal. It also creates a presumption of corrupt enrichment whereby a public official who has not declared an interest in land or other property, when obliged to do so, can be presumed to have obtained it as an inducement or reward for doing an act in relation to his or her office.
Penalties under the Act aim to be sufficiently strong to reflect the serious social and economic harm corruption can do, particularly when committed by public officials. Sentences of up to 10 years are provided for as well as unlimited fines upon conviction on indictment. The Act provides for a penalty of forfeiture of office if an Irish official is found guilty of corruption on indictment, as recommended by UNCAC. The forfeiture of office penalty will not apply where there is already a process for a position to be terminated by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas, or where the power of removal is derived from a Constitutional power.
More generally, the responsibility to develop and implement anti-corruption policies does not rest with any one single body or Department in Ireland. The competence to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute corruption is spread across An Garda Síochána and a number of other agencies with a mandate to tackle corruption. These include tribunals of inquiry, commissions of investigation, inspectors, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), local authorities, the Ombudsman, Parliamentary Committees on Members' Interests, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Public Accounts Committee and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Equally, legislative provisions to prevent corruption are manifold and not exclusive to my Department. For example, the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995, as amended by the Standards in Public Office Act 2001, addresses the ethical conduct of public officials and the lobbying of public officials is covered by the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. The Standards in Public Office Commission is responsible for regulatory functions in relation to these statutes. Likewise, transparency and whistleblowing provisions are provided for via the Freedom of Information Act 2014 and the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. Additionally, policy and procedures relating to public procurement are primarily the responsibility of the Office of Government Procurement. There are many further features to effective anti-corruption policy framework, including anti money laundering provisions, tax transparency, and the enforcement of company law.