'Busiest year' for CAB as it cracks down on drugs and crime gangs
The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has had its busiest year in terms of new cases since the Garda unit's establishment in the mid-1990s.
Thirty new proceeds of crime cases were brought before the High Court by the CAB in 2018, the largest number in a single year since it was set up.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan presented the CAB report to the Cabinet. It sets out how almost €8.4m worth of assets were frozen due to the work of the CAB in 2018.
A total of 973 individuals or gangs were being targeted by the CAB at the end of last year.
West Dublin has by far the most targets identified with 177, followed by south Dublin with 110 people under investigation.
Outside the capital, Limerick had the highest number of targets with 72, while just four targets were under investigation in both Mayo and Cork North.
Chief bureau officer Pat Clavin said the CAB had increased its targeting of people involved in drug-dealing and burglary gangs.
In the report's foreword, he said that 2018 brought the conclusion of a major investigation into the Byrne organised crime group, which has close links to the Kinahan cartel. This "has been welcomed as part of the overall efforts to curb the activities of feuding gangs".
Meanwhile, more than €5.6m was returned to the State, including €2.72m under proceeds of crime legislation, more than €3m under Revenue legislation, and €323,000 recovered in social welfare overpayments.
Separately, ministers agreed amendments to Fianna Fáil TD Jim O'Callaghan's private member Bill to create an independent parole board.
Currently, it is the justice minister that makes the final decisions on parole after recommendations by a non-statutory board.
Under the proposed law, the parole board would make the decisions and the minister's role would change to appointing board members, providing resources, and making applications to vary or revoke an order made by the board itself.
At present, prisoners serving a life sentence are eligible for parole after seven years. Under the Bill, this would be increased to 12 years before they are eligible.
The parole board must be satisfied that the prisoner does not present undue risk to the public and would be capable of re-integrating into society.
Ministers also agreed not to oppose a Fianna Fáil Bill on mandatory minimum prison sentencing for assaults on emergency workers.