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News & Events

Government announces a package of measures to enhance Ireland’s corporate, economic and regulatory framework in the fight against White Collar Crime

Three Departments collaborate on a package of 28 time-bound actions

The Government today (Thursday) published a suite of measures aimed at enhancing corporate governance, increasing transparency and strengthening Ireland’s response to White Collar Crime.

While Ireland is internationally identified as a low risk economy and a secure place in which to do business, this Government believes that it is essential to continue to respond to emerging challenges.

At the request of the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Justice and Equality have collaborated to agree a detailed package of measures and implementation timeframes.

The main actions include:

Establishing the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement as an independent company law compliance and enforcement agency, with the ability to recruit and enlist expert staff;

  • Piloting a Joint Agency Task Force to tackle White Collar Crime. The pilot will address payment fraud (including invoice redirection fraud and credit card fraud) – a criminal enterprise which is increasingly exploited by sophisticated criminal enterprises and which can have devastating effects on individuals and on businesses, resulting in closures of companies and job losses;
  • Enacting the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill which includes legislative provision for recommendations arising from the Mahon Tribunal and will substantially advance meeting Ireland’s obligations under a number of international anti-corruption instruments. This major modernisation of corruption offences law will repeal and replace the seven previous Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 2010;
  • Enacting the Criminal Procedure Bill, which will, among other things, streamline criminal procedures to enhance the efficiency of criminal trials;
  • Implementing the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II) to improve the functioning of financial markets, making them more efficient, resilient and transparent and strengthen investor protection;
  • Evaluating the Protected Disclosures Act, to ensure that the legislation has been effective in line with its objectives; and to identify how it might be improved if necessary;
  • Ensuring this package of measures will be subject to regular scrutiny by Oireachtas to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the measures.

Each of these measures include milestones for delivery which are time-bound and have been assigned a lead Department for implementation.

Implementation of these measures will help ensure that Ireland’s reputation as a top tier country for its business environment is underpinned by a robust regulatory framework to combat corporate, economic and regulatory offences.

Announcing the Government initiative, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:

“Like a lot of people, I am frustrated at our inability as a country to secure more convictions when it comes to corruption and white-collar crime. Corruption and white-collar crime damages our economy, breeds cynicism in our society and is a threat to our international reputation.

“So, we have looked at best practice around the world and will be changing our approach into the future through new laws and better enforcement. We cannot change the past but we can change things for the future. This is a whole of Government effort and a national priority for me as Taoiseach.”

The Tánaiste and Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald said: “While Ireland is internationally identified as a low risk economy and a secure place in which to do business, this Government recognises that, like every other jurisdiction, we must continue to respond to emerging challenges. That is why I am pleased to publish a suite of measures aimed at enhancing corporate governance, increasing transparency and strengthening Ireland’s response to White Collar Crime.

“As part of this, I will be establishing a new independent statutory agency which will be responsible for company law compliance and enforcement and it will investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. This will be established in line with international best practice and my Department will continue to engage with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in relation to international best practice.”

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan said: “My Department has been working for some time on a major overhaul of the anti-corruption law. The Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill 2017 is a major legislative initiative which includes important new offences such as “trading in influence” by public officials, and ensure greater transparency and accountability in a range of areas.

“The Criminal Procedures Bill 2017 will attempt to address the speed with which White Collar Crime cases are processed.

“Recognising the variety of expertise needed for investigations into diverse areas where issues are identified from time to time, we will pilot a Joint Agency Task Force approach. The first Joint Agency Task Force will investigate payment fraud. We will evaluate this approach and, if it is deemed effective, we will introduce Joint Agency Task Forces on other areas of concern.

“My Department will also conduct a wider review of the effectiveness of state bodies with a role in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of engagement on fraud and corruption.

“The measures we are introducing today make it abundantly clear that the Government is dedicated to ensuring a robust anti-corruption framework and ensuring the law is sufficiently strong and clear to sanction those who commit these crimes.”

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe said: “ In our push for greater transparency, Ireland has signed up to a number of European instruments on sharing information and creating registers of beneficial ownership of companies. Our anti-money laundering measures are delivering tangible results and we will continue to strengthen them in the years ahead, as my Department takes the lead in responding to the recommended actions of the Financial Action Task Force Report on Ireland’s Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism framework.”

Speaking on behalf of the Independent Alliance, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, said: “For many years I have highlighted the need to ensure strong legislation and regulation to ensure that the rule of law applies clearly and fairly in every sector of society. The measures introduced today make clear the Government’s intent to prevent and prosecute white collar crimes. It is a clear message to those who believe they are above the law.”

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Report contains 28 actions which are time-bound and have been assigned a lead Department for implementation.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation will:

  • Establish the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement as a new independent company law compliance and enforcement agency, to provide greater autonomy to the agency and ensure it is better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law;
  • Publish and enact the Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill 2017 by Q2 2018, to enhance the oversight of statutory audits;
  • Encourage long-term engagement by shareholders of listed companies, contributing to the sustainability of companies and increased transparency, by transposing the Revised Shareholders’ Rights Directive by Q2 2019, in line with EU requirements;
  • Examine the forthcoming Company Law Review Group Report on Corporate Governance and bring forward proposals, by Q2 2018, to enhance the Corporate Governance provisions of the Companies Act 2014.

The Department of Justice and Equality will:

  • Pilot a Joint Agency Task Force. The pilot will examine payment fraud (including invoice redirection fraud and credit card fraud).
  • Feed the results of that pilot Joint Agency Task Force enterprise into a wider review of the effectiveness of state bodies with a role in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of engagement on fraud and corruption
  • Publish and enact the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill which involves a major consolidation of anti-corruption legislation, introduces new offences and includes legislative provision for recommendations arising from the Mahon Tribunal.
  • Publish and enact the Criminal Procedure Bill to enhance the efficiency of criminal trials and minimise delays;
  • Transpose the 4th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AMLD)

The Department of Finance will:

  • Implement the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II) to improve the functioning of financial markets, including broadening the powers of the Central Bank to remove (members of) the executive board from the management of “failing” MiFID companies, along with extending Market Abuse Rules to a wider cross-section of individuals;
  • Implement the automatic exchange of financial account information under the global Common Reporting Standard (CRS). This will be used by the Revenue Commissioners to identify any potential undeclared foreign assets or income.
  • Respond to the recommended actions of the Financial Action Task Force Report on Ireland’s Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism framework;
  • Under EU anti-money laundering and funding of terrorism standards, establish central registers for beneficial ownership of companies, trusts and similar legal arrangements;
  • Publish a Progress Report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis;
  • Continue to examine, in conjunction with Revenue, whether any additional powers or measures are required to combat tax evasion and avoidance;

A link to the report is available at www.merrionstreet.ie/!J9GUAD