Dublin Rathdown Fine Gael TD, Neale Richmond, has urged the Government to follow the examples of countries like France and New Zealand in using seized crime cash to fight crime at source.
In a topical issue debate in the Dáil last night (Tuesday), Deputy Richmond once again pushed the Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath, to use monies seized by An Garda Síochána, CAB and other state agencies to be put into early intervention programmes to help prevent crime.
Deputy Neale Richmond said: “€16 million seized from the proceeds of crime so far this year has not been assigned or budgeted for. If we were to just take this amount alone and use it for a series of dedicated programmes, we could make a huge difference. There is huge potential to use seized crime cash to fight crime at source and to invest in crime prevention measures.
“There are a number of good examples of this in other jurisdictions with comparable bodies to our own Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
“In France, the Agency for Recovery and Management of Seized and Confiscated Assets (AGRASC) sets a percentage of its revenues aside to provide funding for police operations and drug programs.
“In New Zealand, the Asset Recovery Unit works along the same lines of our CAB, however, instead of putting the proceeds of their work straight back into the exchequer, they go into the Criminal Proceeds Fund where 37 agencies can apply for funding for special projects such as addiction services, crime diversion programmes, mental health services and more.
“Similar programmes are also being run in Belgium, the Netherlands and in parts of the UK with notable success in Scotland where the proceeds of crime are put into youth diversion programmes in Glasgow.”
Deputy Richmond continued, “I appreciate Minister McGrath’s commitment to engage proactively on this. I know he has concerns that this proposal runs contrary to the normal estimates process and that the nature of the variable amounts seized does not allow for a reliable funding stream. That’s understandable if you’re basing year on year expenditure on such estimations but my proposal does not do this.
“We are seeing huge success in taking the proceeds of crime away from criminals, but we need to see these proceeds ploughed back into early intervention services, youth diversion programmes, community policing and addiction services to target criminality at source.
“Rather than allowing the funds disappear into the black hole of the exchequer, let’s ring fence it now and invest that €16 million into a series of three-year programmes in the areas that need it the most.
“€16 million could cover the cost of a lot of resource workers, addiction counsellors or training schemes. The money is there, it has been seized, let’s put it to work.
“Such a move would not only help to keep vulnerable people away from a life of crime but would also demonstrate to those communities devastated by criminality that the Government is committed to putting the proceeds of crime to work in preventing the next generation being lured into the Kinahan Cartel or other such vicious gangs”, Deputy Richmond concluded.