Statement on white collar crime by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence

In the light of various reports which have appeared dealing with aspects of white collar crime, I think it may be helpful to set out the facts in relation to these matters.

I have made clear publicly before that, while recognising the great complexities involved and the efforts of those involved in the investigations, the length of time which the Anglo Irish investigation has been taking is, of course, a source of frustration - to myself, my colleagues in Government and people generally.

Since its appointment, the Government has been determined to ensure that the necessary resources are available to those carrying out the investigation. In addition, in the Criminal Justice Act, 2011, we introduced a range of measures to help both with that investigation and investigations into white collar crime generally. The main purpose of the Act is to address delays in the prosecution and investigation of complex white collar crime by improving important procedural matters and strengthening Garda investigative powers. Its provisions are based on the experiences of those involved in investigations and prosecutions of white collar crime, and, in particular on the experience of those involved in current investigations into bank fraud and financial irregularities. As a result of the enactment of that legislation, Gardaí have been able to use its provisions to gain access to material which had been previously unavailable to them. It is a pity that that legislation had not been introduced by the then Government at an early stage of the investigation.

Two substantially complete investigation files were submitted by the Garda Bureau of Investigation to the Director of Public Prosecutions in December, 2010. There is ongoing contact between the Gardaí and the Office of the Director, and the counsel appointed by the Director, and various further inquiries have been undertaken and papers submitted. The Commissioner has assured me that this work is receiving absolute priority.

It is, of course, a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions to make decisions on the cases submitted to her. In those circumstances, clearly it is not possible to go into precise details of these investigations so as to avoid the danger of prejudicing the possibility of proceedings against persons.

The issue has also arisen of Garda action in relation to the work of both the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals.

The Garda Commissioner has already made it clear that following an examination of the Moriarty report he is consulting with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether aspects of it may be pursued from a criminal point of view. Persons named in Tribunal reports have no lesser nor greater rights when it comes to the criminal law than anyone else.

In relation to the Mahon Tribunal a similar examination is taking place.

It will be appreciated that both of these Tribunals sat for many years, partly reflecting the complexity of the issues involved. Inevitably a subsequent Garda examination, which cannot use as evidence the evidence given at the Tribunal, must take some time but as I recently indicated in the Dail I am confident that An Garda Síochána, where they have reason to believe that offences have been committed, will deal with these matters without fear or favour. In this context, it should be borne in mind that there are people presently before the courts in connection with planning matters and it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment on those cases.

Under our criminal justice system individuals are presumed innocent until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt. It is clearly importan t that public comment is not made which could prejudice criminal proceedings and damage the prospects of such proceedings being successfully taken where it is deemed appropriate to do so.

8 April 2012