New laws will target white collar crime
Justice Minister Alan Shatter is bringing in new laws to fast-track criminal prosecutions over the doomed Anglo Irish Bank and other financial scandals.
The legislation on complex white collar crime will introduce new offences for anyone who fails or refuses to pass on information to investigating officers.
Mr Shatter admitted recent probes have been hampered by potential witnesses who were reluctant to make statements or help with official inquiries.
"The Bill will ensure that any person with relevant information can be required to produce documents, answer questions and provide information for the purposes of the investigation of relevant offences," he said.
The new Criminal Justice Bill targeting delays in the prosecution and investigation of complex crime in banking, finance and company law as well as money laundering, fraud, corruption and cyber-crime will be published within weeks.
Mr Shatter, who was appointed to the Cabinet just two weeks ago as part of the new coalition Government, said public faith in justice was being tested over the unpunished wrongdoing of rogue bankers.
"The public are concerned that the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime in this country is taking too long," he said.
"The complexities of financial crime create a high challenge for investigators and for prosecutors.
"However, we must find ways to ensure that no matter how complex the crime, no matter how important, wealthy or influential the wrongdoer may be, he or she must be brought before the courts."
Three separate investigations are ongoing into Anglo Irish Bank since its spectacular collapse, which is expected to cost the taxpayer €25bn.
As well as the Garda inquiry, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board are holding their own separate probes.
Mr Shatter said he was forced to bring in a new white collar crime Bill because of the experiences of those involved in the investigations and prosecutions.
In an address to the Irish Criminal Bar Association, entitled From Cufflinks to Handcuffs, the justice minister said his legislation will allow better use of suspect detention periods and make it an offence to withhold documents or information.
It will also make it a criminal offence to fail to report information which could help investigations or the prosecution of other white collar criminals.
Plans are also under way to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau to seize any proceeds of white collar crime.
"We must put an end to any hint of a culture that sees less culpability on the part of a white collar thief when compared to a mugger on the street," said Mr Shatter.
"Those who have, through greed, abused the responsibility and influence of their positions, in financial institutions or elsewhere, cannot be seen as the authors of victimless crimes.
"These people, with the means to hide money in an offshore fund, should have no advantage over the mugger who stuffs it in his pocket."