The report notes several times that ‘money is a strategic asset’ within the organisation. It strongly suggests that the leadership of the IRA is trying to stop criminal activity by trying to stop members from engaging in it, whilst accepting that some criminal activities are “deeply embedded in the culture of a number of communities”.
4.7 Money lies at the heart of much paramilitary criminal activity. It is a prime motive of the paramilitary criminals, whether for the benefit of the organisation, of themselves personally, or of both. It can be the instrument whereby they are able to function effectively. And it can serve as one of the most important ways of tracking them down and so of disrupting or preventing what they do. Over time organised criminals, including paramilitary ones in Ireland North and South, have developed more sophisticated means of protecting the assets they have secured, often over many years of criminality of one kind or another. In some cases paramilitaries have built up very substantial property portfolios, stretching further than is normally found with other organised crime groups and involving much more extensive networks of people.
These networks may, for example, include the legal owners of property the purchase of which was funded by assets originally obtained illegally and which these present owners undertake not to sell without the agreement of the organisation concerned. Such people are a source of continuing funding for the organisation, holding well laundered assets. The ability to act in this way depends
among other things on the employment of professionals, such as lawyers and accountants.
4.8 It is for this reason that we so strongly support the work of all the law enforcement agencies involved in investigating and recovering illegally gained assets and in investigating other associated offences such as money laundering. This includes the 31 police services and customs authorities North and South. Assets recovery is the focus of the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and of the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA). We believe that both have a key role to play in the continuing fight to confiscate assets originating from paramilitary organised crime, including that illegally obtained long ago. Strategically, their work is long-term, and individual cases can take a long while to bring to fruition because of the sophisticated methods paramilitaries use to launder the proceeds of crime and to hide the resulting assets; we note that this matter is one of those that both CAB and ARA are presently addressing.
4.9 We are therefore glad to note the continuing activities of CAB as well as the
increasing North-South co-operation in this area of law enforcement.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty