Home > Dail Eireann debate. Counterfeiting Bill 2020: Second Stage.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Counterfeiting Bill 2020: Second Stage. (11 Feb 2021)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Mark Ward: …I note the Government's commitment on cybercrime in the report on the future of policing but commitments are not worth the paper they are written on unless they have political will behind them. Commitments need to be resourced and enforced. We cannot be soft on cybercrime. We have all seen recent headlines about serious organised crime in this country. Organised counterfeiting and fraud are only possible with the types of immense resources possessed by large criminal gangs.

Most things in life have a way of filtering down but dirty money also filters up. The money that the mother borrowed from the credit union to pay the drug debts of her child flows right up to the modern skyscrapers where, at the click of a button, it is sanitised. A recent report stated that a quarter of the people in Dublin's north-east inner city have experienced drug-related intimidation and over 80% see it as an issue but less than one in five would report it. Drug-related intimidation is not confined to one area of Dublin. I have met parents in my own area who have been forced to pay drug-related debts that their children have accumulated. The debts that the children apparently owe these unscrupulous dealers are frequently exaggerated to parents who end up paying exorbitant amounts back to these dealers for fear of reprisals. Is this not fraud at a very base level? This is the money that flows up to these white-collar criminals.

In response to a parliamentary question I asked about the amount of assets seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, I was pleasantly surprised that there has been an increase in the amount of money seized. In 2019, almost €65 million was seized by CAB. While I welcome the seizure by the State of this ill-gotten money, it is just the tip of the iceberg of what is going on. That €65 million originated in areas such as my own. It originated in the purses of mothers paying drug debts for their children. The money originated in areas with high levels of deprivation and poverty caused by systemic failures in Government policies. The money currently goes back to the Exchequer but it should be ring-fenced to build resilience in the communities in which it originated. It should be ring-fenced for local drug task forces, mental health groups, family resource centres, unemployment services and other community groups that have been failed by successive Governments.

I suggest that the assets seized by CAB are just the tip of the iceberg.

Section 9 creates a criminal liability for corporate bodies where they or their staff may have been engaging in or benefiting from counterfeiting. If they can prove they took "all reasonable steps and exercised due diligence" to prevent such behaviour, that will be their defence. This potentially provides an out for large companies that might benefit from these activities. This cannot be allowed. I want to be clear that the interaction between cybercrime and white-collar crime should not be subject to a light touch in this country, and that we must look at this more closely on Committee Stage.

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú: …Every time I have spoken in any debate relating to crime, I have made a point about the drugs pandemic. I spoke on it in the House yesterday. The Minister has already said she is seeking to deliver legislation on the proceeds of crime, in particular to divert the proceeds of drug dealing to fund front-line services. However, it should not be the only source of funding. All the groups talk about the need for multi-annual funding. It is a natural justice aspect of the issue that needs to be sorted. The Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, and the Minister, Deputy McEntee, must persuade the Taoiseach to set a date for a Citizens' Assembly to deal with the drugs pandemic, notwithstanding the Covid difficulties. I would also welcome an update on the plans for a youth justice system that is fit for purpose. If I recall correctly, the University of Limerick, UL, Greentown study, indicated that up 1,000 children could possibly be open to involvement with criminal gangs, so we need something that is more fit for purpose than what we currently have.

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