independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Ministers near deal on criminal assets

European justice and home affairs ministers are moving closer to a deal on seizing the assets of criminals.

They are expected to take a big step forward when the first ministerial meeting of Ireland's EU presidency ends at Dublin Castle today.

More than 50 ministers are attending the two-day summit chaired by Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter (pictured right).

They include ministers from the 27 EU states as well as potential members, while also participating are European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gueterres.

Ireland's aim is to secure recognition by all EU member states of the seizures, even where no criminal convictions are involved.

The ministers will attend a presentation on asset seizures this morning by Det Chief Supt Eugene Corcoran, head of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

Since it was set up in 1996 in the wake of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, CAB has become a role model for other jurisdictions.

Several countries have expressed concern about the seizing of civil assets, but Mr Shatter is hopeful that an agreement will be reached.

"I believe harmonisation of European law in this area would strike a very heavy blow against organised crime," he said.

Ineffective

He was supported by Commissioner Malmstrom, who said organised crime attacked the fabric of society.

The meeting agreed that a perception of ineffective responses to organised crime was likely to adversely affect economic recovery.

During the past year CAB was given permission by the Austrian courts to seize €700,000 held in a bank account belonging to Brian Meehan in Vienna.

CAB tracked down the cash after Meehan was convicted of the Guerin murder and jailed for life.

Ministers also discussed the creation of a European Missing Persons Day this year to highlight the plight of people who have disappeared.

Irish Independent

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