Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
143. Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has explored the possibility of using money seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau for volunteer projects as a means of reinvesting in communities; if he has had further discussions either within his Department or with colleagues on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11401/05]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The Criminal Assets Bureau enforces the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 which provides statutory procedures of restraint. The effect of restraint orders made by the High Court is to freeze, for at least seven years, property deemed to be the proceeds of crime. After that period, a disposal order may be sought from the court to vest the property in the Minister for Finance. It is only where the court directs that such property be transferred that funds accrue to the Exchequer.
While I have raised the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, the proposal that assets, which are determined by law to be the proceeds of crime, be committed directly towards volunteer projects as a means of reinvesting in communities would involve a significant departure from Government accounting principles. These provide that it is a matter for the Government, with the approval of the Oireachtas, to determine the optimum allocation of Exchequer receipts in accordance with agreed priorities. The position of the Department of Finance is that any departure from such principles could set a precedent which would be difficult to resist in those circumstances and which, no doubt, would reactivate long-standing demands for “ringfencing” receipts in other sectoral areas.
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