Irish Examiner - - News - Pádraig Hoare

Set­ting up a spe­cial­ist divi­sion to tackle white-col­lar crime would be an ‘enor­mous’ task, the of­fice re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing cor­po­rate com­pli­ance has said.

Set­ting up a spe­cial­ist divi­sion to tackle whitecol­lar crime would be an “enor­mous” task and an “ex­tra­or­di­nary chal­lenge”, the of­fice re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing cor­po­rate com­pli­ance has said.

The Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Cor­po­rate En­force­ment (ODCE) was re­spond­ing af­ter the Cen­tral Bank said this week it would sup­port the set­ting up of a spe­cial­ist divi­sion in light of “un­der­stand­able pub­lic con­cern” around white-col­lar crime and the bank­ing crash.

The Cen­tral Bank had is­sued its views fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of pa­per by the Law Re­form Com­mis­sion on reg­u­la­tory en­force­ment and cor­po­rate of­fences, which said a ded­i­cated unit would al­low for more ef­fec­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion of white-col­lar of­fences.

The Cen­tral Bank de­clined to say what role the ODCE would have in any new unit but did say co-op­er­a­tion be­tween var­i­ous agen­cies would be wel­come.

How­ever, the ODCE said that while it would be “gen­er­ally supportive” of any mea­sures to more ef­fec­tively tackle white col­lar crime, it was “dif­fi­cult to of­fer a de­fin­i­tive view” of what the Cen­tral Bank en­vis­aged.

It said there al­ready ex­isted a num­ber of statu­tory bod­ies with the power to con­duct crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions into white col­lar crime, in­clud­ing the Cen­tral Bank it­self.

An ODCE state­ment said: “The cen­tral­i­sa­tion of some or all as­pects of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of white-col­lar crime into a sin­gle body or unit would re­quire the trans­fer of very sig­nif­i­cant re­spon­si­bil­i­ties from a wide range of bod­ies.

“Given the breadth and com­plex­ity of the var­i­ous leg­isla­tive codes in­volved, the re­mit of any re­sult­ing en­tity would be enor­mous. Con­se­quently, main­tain­ing the lev­els of spe­cial­ist knowl­edge re­quired to ef­fec­tively in­ves­ti­gate and en­force each as­pect of such a broad re­mit would present an ex­tra­or­di­nary chal­lenge for a sin­gle in­ves­tiga­tive agency.”

The ODCE said set­ting up such a divi­sion could be very costly.

“The pro­gramme re­quired to amend the var­i­ous codes of leg­is­la­tion would be likely to be both com­plex and highly re­source in­ten­sive and as such would likely re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant cost­ben­e­fit anal­y­sis,” it said.

Be­fore “more rad­i­cal pro­pos­als for re­form in the area of white-col­lar crime are adopted”, the ODCE said, “there must first be an un­der­stand­ing of what that term po­ten­tially en­com­passes and of the po­ten­tial im­pli­ca­tions of such pro­pos­als”.

“The term white col­lar crime would gen­er­ally be un­der­stood to in­clude crim­i­nal of­fences un­der a range of leg­isla­tive codes in­clud­ing for ex­am­ple the com­pa­nies acts, the taxes acts, crim­i­nal jus­tice leg­is­la­tion on theft and fraud, anti-money laun­der­ing leg­is­la­tion, com­pe­ti­tion law, fi­nan­cial ser­vices leg­is­la­tion — in­clud­ing, amongst oth­ers, the Cen­tral Bank and in­sur­ance acts as well as leg­is­la­tion re­lat­ing to reg­u­lated se­cu­ri­ties mar­kets — and leg­is­la­tion re­lat­ing to bribery and cor­rup­tion.”

On a broader in­ter­pre­ta­tion, the ODCE said the term white-col­lar crime ex­tends to health and safety law and to leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing stan­dards in pub­lic of­fice.

It said the pros­e­cu­tion of se­ri­ous of­fences could only be ini­ti­ated by the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions.

“Thus re­spon­si­bil­ity for pros­e­cu­tion of se­ri­ous crime — in­clud­ing white-col­lar crime — al­ready re­sides in a sin­gle body.”

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