Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased and honoured to open this conference on International Fraud Prevention, and I thank the organisers for inviting me to be here today. You are all most welcome, and I know that your valuable contributions will help to inform and shape the output of this conference.
I welcome colleagues from other jurisdictions, including Dermot Shea, NYPD Chief of Detectives. Chief Shea oversees the biggest detective bureau in the United States and no doubt has considerable experiences to share of combatting fraud in its many forms. And yes, fraud does come in many forms, including money laundering, corruption and cyber-enabled scams that can, and do, impact on individuals, business and the State.
Tackling and preventing fraud is of crucial importance to the State and to the wider international community. I strongly support the emphasis that this conference places on the need for collaboration and cooperation between agencies and organisations as a means of combatting fraud.
If Ireland is to maintain its open economy and status as a favourable destination for Foreign Direct Investment, we must all of us, in Government and in wider society, work together to combat fraud and economic crime generally. We must work together to provide reassurance for both the business community and the wider community of citizens, so that everyone can feel secure conducting their business and living their lives in Ireland. But the impact of this type of crime goes deeper.
The truth is, we all pay the price for fraud. Fraudulent acts and practices are a drain on the exchequer, drive up costs for businesses and, ultimately, for all those who live and work in this country.
As part of the Government’s package of measures to combat White Collar Crime, a group has been established to review Ireland’s Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption Structures, with a focus on collaboration and cooperation between key State Departments and bodies. The group is chaired by the highly respected former Director of Public Prosecutions and anti-corruption expert James Hamilton. This working group includes representatives from all of the key State agencies and bodies involved in combating fraud and corruption in Ireland, such as the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement and the Central Bank among other important agencies and bodies. The group is working to develop and enhance the Government’s response to Fraud and Corruption across the legislative, policy and regulatory fields. The group will report later this year, and I look forward to receiving its recommendations.
Other key Government initiatives being pursued through my Department include legislative and policy changes to tackle and prevent Money Laundering and Corruption, both of which are crimes that often have an international dimension. Ireland recently undertook a complete overhaul of its anti-corruption legislation. The Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018 repealed anti-corruption laws dating back to 1889, replacing them with a modern, accessible statute. This new Act reflects the global nature of corruption and has a particular focus on both domestic and foreign public officials, acting in the course of their duties.
oOne of the most significant provisions of the Act is the offence relating to bodies corporate. It places strict criminal liability on a body corporate where a corruption offence is committed by one of their employees, agents or other officers. This is aimed at deterrence as much as it is at punishment. It is a sign of Ireland’s commitment to ensuring that companies act responsibly and take steps to prevent corruption in their organisations.
In the broader area of corruption policy and legislation, Ireland has recently been the subject of a United Nations peer review process, with regard to the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption. Ireland was commended on a number of measures that have been put in place. Good practices identified include the provisions in the Protected Disclosures legislation, the setting up of a Tender Advisory Service, the freedom of information disclosure log and the Anti-Money-Laundering Steering Committee. The review also highlighted the Criminal Assets Bureau as a good example of how to deal with asset recovery.
But we can always do better, and my Department, together with other relevant Departments and Agencies, has already begun progressing the recommendations of the UN review and we will continue to work to strengthen Ireland’s anti-corruption and prevention framework.
oAlso important in the fight against fraud is Anti-Money Laundering policy and legislation. Ireland’s legislative regime for tackling money laundering was strengthened last year by our transposition of the 4th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive. Central to the Directive is the concept of risk management, with businesses expected to analyse their risk of exposure to possible money laundering and demonstrate that they have measures in place to mitigate those risks. This takes time and effort, both for businesses and for the competent authorities who support and inspect their efforts. We will continue to ensure that resources are in place to make this happen.
Work is also well under way in my Department to transpose the 5th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive by the deadline early next year. This will further enhance a robust system of anti-money laundering checks and balances, particularly in the area of new technologies. My Department and the whole of Government are committed to further strengthening our systems, and the bodies that interact with them, to prevent the abuse of the financial system.
I welcome the particular emphasis of today’s conference, focussing, as it does, on preventing fraud through collaboration and technology.
As with so many forms of crime, developments in modern technology that have brought so many benefits to our society have also created new opportunities for those who seek to engage in fraud. In this regard, it is worth noting the important work of the Garda National Cybercrime Bureau in tackling such cyber-enabled crimes in collaboration with other Garda units such as the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, and the ongoing efforts of An Garda Síochána to enhance capacity in this area by establishing regional cybercrime units are very welcome. My Department will continue to work with An Garda Síochána and all other relevant bodies to enhance Ireland’s response to cyber enabled Fraud and economic crime.
Combating and preventing fraud falls under the remit of several different Departments and Agencies, and my Department continues to cooperate closely with colleagues across the whole of Government on this issue. As I’ve said, I look forward to receiving the report of the Review Group on Ireland’s Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption Structures, where all of these Departments and Agencies are represented, and are all actively contributing to the work of the group. I anticipate that the group will make robust and far-reaching recommendations, which will help to inform the further strengthening of Ireland’s legislative and policy response to fraud, corruption and economic crime generally.
Before I finish, I would like to stress the importance of companies and individuals reporting incidents of fraud to An Garda Síochána. Too often, we hear of a reluctance to report for fear of professional reputational damage or personal embarrassment, but this is something that these fraudsters rely on when targeting their victims. There is no shame and no embarrassment in being the victim of fraud. This type of criminality employs technological tools and other techniques to expose potential vulnerabilities, which can be exploited to the detriment of their targets.
And we are all at risk.
I again want to emphasise how reporting incidents of fraud to law enforcement ensures that those who are best placed to respond can do so quickly.
It is in the interests of the State, the business community and society generally to prevent and combat fraud and related crimes. This conference represents an important and collaborative step in this process, and I know that it will produce valuable insights and ideas.
Thank you for your time.