Garda finance unit handed power to trace offshore funds
Gardaí have been given tough new powers to track down money hidden overseas and suspected of being either laundered or used to finance terrorist groups.
Changes in the law, which came into effect yesterday, will boost co-operation with international bodies and allow them to demand information to complete inquiries into suspicious financial transactions.
The changes, which were signed into force by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, expand the remit of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which is part of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau at Harcourt Square in Dublin. The legal amendments will strengthen the hand of the unit to take action if it is given information from banks or other financial institutions about suspicious money movements.
Senior officers said last night that the FIU has up to now been investigating international transactions with limited legislative backup.
However, the amendments to the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act gives it the powers to share information with corresponding units in other countries while also requesting further information from banks and accessing beneficial ownership registers.
The changes will allow gardaí to seek the retention of records or documents related to a business relationship or transaction for 10 rather than the current five years, although there has been no decision taken to begin criminal proceedings against a suspect.
The legislation states that the FIU may, for the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating or combating money laundering or terrorist financing, request a person to provide them with information to allow them carry out further inquiries into a transaction.
The legislation also widens the anti-laundering powers to cover transactions in the gambling industry.