Ó Laoghaire calls for stronger measures on White Collar Crime
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that this Government has, like its predecessors, has not taken enough action on tackling White Collar Crime.
Speaking last night during the second stage of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill, the Cork South Central TD said that there was significant areas which had been neglected in this legislation, though Sinn Féin would be supporting the modest measures.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:
“Corruption, whether in Public Life, or in Business and Commerce, has been a part of the History of our state. We have had Tribunals into various issues, we have had Planning corruption, zoning controversies, bribery, corporate fraud, and more.
“Yet, the Governments attitude towards corporate fraud and corruption has been casual and slack, and although not exclusively confined to white collar crime, it appears to date where the Government have been most passive.
“This legislation has some significant and obvious gaps. In particular, it is incredible that there is nothing on the issue of reckless lending. There is little about individuality accountability, or liability, beyond what the EU had recommended and the consolidation of mostly already existing offences here.
“Even issues raised by the Central Bank, such as the need for a new offence of giving misleading information to the Central Bank, are not addressed which is very disappointing; that could and should have happened. We also need Class Action type legislation, which Sinn Féin proposed this week in the Dáil.
“We need a major cultural shift, but this Bill won't deliver that or the legal changes we need. Today’s plan would not have prevented the banking crash or brought more of those responsible to Justice.
“These cultural issues reflected in a study conducted by EY in June of this year, which saw some 47% of Irish employees interviewed believed bribery and corrupt practices were widespread, while 22% said they would be prepared to act unethically to improve their career progression or remuneration package. These are much higher than other countries.
“To tackle this, we need changes in legislation, but also an overhaul and more funding for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The ODCE has brought no prosecutions and achieved no convictions in this state in the past two years. Only 43 prosecutions have been brought by the ODCE in the past decade, a shockingly low amount over this period of time, and given the context of all that has gone one since 2007.
“It has also recently come to light that the most senior Garda position in the ODCE has been vacant since September 2016. Why is this? In addition, the annual reports of the ODCE show that almost €6 million in its allocated funding has been returned to the state over in the past three years alone, including €2.7 million in 2016, in the same year when no prosecutions or convictions were achieved by this agency.
“That simply isn’t good enough. One of the things that frustrated the population most over the course of the recession was that while people suffered, and people suffered grievously, that it appeared that no one was being brought to justice. We did not see the level of court cases that were brought in the US, or in other jurisdictions, where corrupt and immoral practices took place, and reckless to the point of wrongdoing practices, took place. Yet, they did not see the people who many felt were responsible, brought to Justice.
“We will be supporting this legislation, however, the Government has not, and is not doing anywhere near enough to tackle White Collar Crime - and it is not a victimless Crime.”