EUROPEAN organised crime gangs may move their criminal enterprises to Ireland due to the country’s non-membership of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) system.
That was the concern raised by Fianna Fáil MEP for Ireland South Billy Kelleher at a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s Justice and Budget committees in Brussels recently.
Mr Kelleher said that Gardaí and state agencies in Ireland need to be aware of the possibility of this happening as European prosecution officials have learned that this is being considered by some criminal gangs.
Mr Kelleher said: “The Chief Prosecutor said that ‘we hear through our wiretapping that criminals are contemplating moving their activities to some non-participating Member States because they are not part of the EPPO.'”
The Ireland South MEP added that Irish law enforcement agencies should be concerned that the country has an opt out from joining the EPPO.
“Ireland isn’t a member of the EPPO primarily due to our use of common law in our legal system whereby the vast majority of other Member States use civil law,” he said.
However, in a statement to the Limerick Post, a spokesperson from the Department of Justice said that they are currently working to ensure that Ireland’s legislation is amended to “further facilitate cooperation with the EPPO”.
“Separately, an Inter-Agency Working Group has been established to examine Ireland’s potential future participation in the EPPO.”
The spokesperson said that while this work is ongoing, organised crime is still a priority for the Government and An Garda Síochána.
“An Garda Síochána continues to play a leading role in international efforts to combat transnational organised crime groups. While we should not underestimate the difficulties which the Garda authorities face in tackling organised crime activity, we continue to see the significant results of their efforts in the arrests made and people being brought before the Courts, both here and in other jurisdictions, as well as the ongoing drugs and firearms seizures made,” they said.
The Department also said that while the Gardaí have multiple measures to target organised crime, international cooperation is another essential element.
“Such approaches include the use of money-laundering legislation and the powers available to CAB under the proceeds of crime legislation and to the greatest extent possible, these measures include the use of advanced analytical and intelligence methodologies.
“International cooperation is an essential element in targeting organised crime,” they said.