Thursday, April 7, 2011

Irish Justice Minister to tackle white-collar crime

The Blog came across an Irish Times article (March 26th 2011), transcribed below, and felt it would be of interest to readers. It is a very welcome development and Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter is to be congratulated on his initiative.

The full article is as follows:

Shatter moves to tackle white-collar crime

By: Carol Coulter, Legal Affairs Editor

Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, is to introduce legislation on white-collar crime, which will deal with both current and future investigations, within the next four to six weeks.

Mr. Shatter was speaking at a conference in Dublin on white-collar crime organised by the Criminal Bar Association and Clarus Press.

The Bill will be targeted at serious and complex offences attracting a penalty of at least five years’ imprisonment, including offences in banking and financing, company law, money laundering, fraud, corruption, competition, consumer protection and cybercrime.

Mr. Shatter said many of the measures in the Bill resulted from the experience of recent investigations, where the Garda (Irish police) had discovered that some potential witnesses had been reluctant to make statements assisting the Garda.

He said the measures went beyond those currently in the Criminal Justice Bill.

The new Bill will strengthen Garda investigative powers, allowing people detained for questioning to be released and their detention suspended while further investigations take place.

It will contain provisions to ensure that any person with relevant information can be required to produce documents, answer questions and provide information for the purposes of investigating serious offences. There will be a new offence of failing to report information to the Garda.

“Anyone who fails to cooperate or who obstructs an investigation could find themselves subject to criminal prosecution,” he said.

It will also contain new detailed measures relating to the production of documents, aimed at reducing the delays associated with the disclosure of large volumes of poorly ordered and uncategorised documents.

It will also enable the Garda to apply to court for a decision on whether a claim of legal privilege over a document is a valid one.

In addition to these measures, he said the Government would introduce reform and consolidation of the law on corruption. It would also strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to forfeiting the proceeds of crime.

“We must put an end to any hint of a culture that sees less culpability on the part of a white-collar thief when compared to a mugger on the street”, he said.

“Those who have, through greed, abused the responsibility and influence of their positions in financial institutions or elsewhere, cannot be seen as the authors of victimless crimes,” the Minister added. ENDS

On a separate matter:

The next Irish Red Cross Central Council meeting is due to be held sometime during the month of May. To-date the vast majority of Irish Red Cross members around the country have still not received a copy of the draft/proposed new Irish Red Cross Constitution. Most Irish Red Cross members or staff have had no say whatsoever in a process that will impact the Society for a generation.

This Blog is firmly of the view that the proposed draft Constitution needs to be set aside while a proper and detailed countrywide consultation process with members and staff takes place. The Blog has outlined in a previous article the reasons why the proposed draft constitution, if passed in its current format, will prove to be a major setback for reform and modernity within the Irish Red Cross. If approved it will secure the power bases of the current leadership for another decade at least and consign the Irish Red Cross to years of more turmoil, under performance and dominance by a small few.

A comment posted on the last blog article suggested the attempts by the Executive Committee to railroad the draft Constitution through at the upcoming Central Council meeting in the absence of a proper nationwide consultation process with members was akin to the Irish Government trying to change the country’s Constitution without a referendum. It was a point very well made. No well functioning or democratic organisation would ever consider changing its constitution without first engaging extensively with its membership. The Irish Red Cross has failed to do this.

The draft proposals are nothing more than a grab for permanent power by those who have ruled the organisation for the last two decades. It’s high time a full membership general assembly be held at which every member in the country is invited to attend and for once an open, transparent and democratic discussion be permitted to take place on the future of the Irish Red Cross. The last general assembly of the Irish Red Cross took place six years ago. The Executive Committee cancelled the General Assemblies scheduled for 2007 and 2009.

Until democracy is restored to the Irish Red Cross and members of the Society are given a chance to have their say plans to impose a new constitution should be frozen. Perhaps the new Central Council members will provide us with some much needed hope.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty-Sir Winston Churchill


  1. Anonymous4:18 AM

    Very timely article Blogger. The Irish Times report will rattle a few cages. Tackling white collar crime and corruption in every organisation is very important. As most people realise its not limited to only financial institutions. Thankfully the Minister is not restricting it to the banks so all organisations will be covered. I like the part where it will be an offence not to report information to the guards. This will definitely make some people very worried.

  2. Anonymous4:22 AM

    Did anyone contact the Labour Party about its position on staying silent when all the evidence points to action being required? Does the Labour Party have a policy on its Councilors and what they do when they are involved with other organisations?

    Does anyone know what Darren Ryan's position is on the Irish Red Cross keeping undeclared bank accounts and channeling Haiti money to the domestic accounts? I presume he is against such things but not sure he has publicly said so. Perhaps I am wrong.

  3. Anonymous4:33 AM

    So is the Vice Chairman, Tony Lawlor and the Treasurer, Ted Noonan going forward for election again this year for the umpteenth time or are they going to step down and let others have a crack at the whip for a change? It would be good governance practice for these people to step down for a minimum of five years. The nominations for Executive Committee will be due in soon. Hopefully some fresh blood going forward. Its the only hope of salvation for the Irish Red Cross. Are the likes of Ann Murphy, Joe Miller, Tom Horwell etc all going forward as well? Without fresh blood everything goes stale so please members give some fresh blood and save a life...that of the Irish Red Cross!!!

  4. Anonymous8:51 AM

    The Central Council members are an interesting group. Few if any seem to have any detailed understanding why they are there and their obligations as members of a governing board. They seemingly know practically very little about the organisation they are representing. There is little or no accountability and nothing if anything will change until Mr Wardick asks every last one of them to attend a Court to give account as to why they allowed the organisation's Vice Chairman and other officers in the Tipperary branch to keep money in an undeclared account in Tipperary until they were found out and why they allowed the Society to remove money for decades out of Overseas Appeal funds to be used for internal expenses. Is it any wonder the Central Council members are regarded as being ineffective when they wont hold members of the Executive Committee to account

  5. Anonymous3:21 AM

    If the Central Council wish to be seen as effective and credible then they must at their May meeting:

    1. Elect a new Vice Chairman
    2. Elect a new Treasurer
    3. Elect a number of new people to the Executive to replace those whose time has long passed. Everyone knows who they are.

    Then once Central Council has cleared out the Executive Committee they should instruct the Secretary General, Donal Forde to:

    1.Organise a full scale general assembly and invite all Irish Red Cross members. On the agenda should be the draft Irish Red Cross Constitution which should be discussed and debated in detail and changes made if members wish. Also on the agenda should be the investigation report into the Tipperary tsunami bank account and appropriate sanctions against those involved, up to and including the Vice Chairman.
    2. Put forward a motion to repay the €600,000 back into the Haiti fund. Readers of the blog will recall this money which was donated for Haiti by the general public was channeled to the domestic accounts in early 2010. It needs to be repaid.
    3. Provide a full list to members of all the Irish Red Cross properties and debate appropriate sanctions against those responsible for keeping the properties secret and off the books for years, in contravention of accounting rules.
    4. Provide a full cost of the legal challenge the Irish Red Cross took against Google, a challenge which Irish Red Cross failed miserably in. Provide members a full cost of the legal costs incurred by the Irish Red Cross over the last 20 years. The figure will be astronomical and reflective of the fact that the Irish red Cross is permanently threatening and taking legal action against someone.

    Only if the above is done will the Central Council and its members restore any credibility as an effective supreme governing body.

  6. Anonymous3:37 AM

    I laughed out loud at the comment about giving Irish Red Cross a fresh blood donation to save its own life!!

    To answer a question posed by a commentator re Darren Ryan and Labour, I spoke with my local Labour TD and reminded him of the Programme for Government's commitment to conduct a full scale legal review of the Irish Red Cross and its governance structures. He assured me he would discuss it with Labour ministers.

  7. Anonymous11:25 AM

    Dear NEW Secretary General Mr Forde,

    When are we the memebrs going to hear about the proposed Governance reforms. I have asked several memebrs and not a single person has seen them as yet. Is this the democracy that you bring to the Red Cross or are you as we suspect just another bush to block a hole in the fence that is the Irish Red Cross?

  8. Anonymous5:07 AM

    Why does it appear that not one member of Central Council or the Executive Committee has the moral courage to tell the Vice Chairman that in light of his involvement in the undeclared Tipperary tsunami bank account and in light of his 20 years as Vice Chairman that it is in the interest of the Irish Red Cross that he step down and take a break from office for at least five years. Given what happened with the Tipperary bank account it would not be unreasonable to ask that he step down and remain out of office for ever. In a well functioning organisation this is what would happen.

    Why hasnt the Chairman, who must lead by example, formally written to Lawlor asking for his resignation?

    Remember Central Council members silence and inaction when one has full knowledge is tantamount to complicity. There is no hiding from that fact.

  9. Anonymous5:30 AM

    There are three things that horrify me most about the Irish Red Cross at the moment and until they are addressed I will never give the organisation another penny.

    A. No-one has been held accountable for the Tipperary Asian Tsunami bank account. Immediate resignations are required. If no resignations explusions are required

    B. The breach of accounting procedures around the extensive but secretive Irish Red Cross property portfolio which was given to the Society by members of the public after their deaths. A full investigation is required.

    C. Taking €600,000 of money donated by the general public from the Haiti fund and using it to cover up Irish Red Cross losses. The money needs to be returned to the Haiti fund and all those involved in this sordid episode including board members and senior staff investigated

  10. Anonymous1:42 AM

    Dear Central Council members, Perhaps at the next opportunity you will highlight to the Society the humanitarian work you have carried out as a members of the Irish Red Cross. Why are you not appraised or evaluated as per good governance practice? Why is there no record of your 'performance' while on Central Council and Execuitve Committee? My own belief is there is no independent evaluations because if there was many of you would not pass and would therefore be forced to resign your positions.

    Perhaps you could outline significant acts which do not incude humiliating members of staff or intimidating members in such a way that they leave the Society or fired from the Society. Might I suggest that you highlight how you have acted to promote the Fundamental Principles and International Humanitarian Law during the 30 year conflict in northern Ireland which also impacted in the Republic. I know it will be a short presentation but would nevertheless be interesting. I ask this in the full knowledge that any independent performance evaluation of your performances would make for the most fascinating reading. Why are things like the facebook breach of confidentiality by Mr. Horwell and the humiliating RTE Prime Time performance by the Irish Red Cross spokesperson, Sheila Callan, not evaluated and dealt with? And the biggest scandal of them all, the Tipperary tsunami bank account which Mr. Lawlor was invovled with? I have never witnessed an organisation so completely unaccountable.

  11. Anonymous1:50 AM

    Dear Blogger,

    If the current members of the Central Council and Executive think for one minute that we will get fed up and just drift away with disillusionment at their unwillingness to act in the face of so much wrong doing within the Irish Red Cross, then they are indeed greatly mistaken.

    We shall continue to watch over them and shall continue to lobby to force the authorities to make them accountable for their actions and inaction.

    We shall continue to name and shame them! They can send letters and threats till they are blue in the face, but our resolve is strong and righteous. So Executive Committee and Central Council members lower your heads in the shame you have brought upon the Irish Red Cross and do the decent thing and resign now.

  12. Anonymous7:13 AM

    The recent Nyberg report into the banking system collapse turns a spotlight on two areas which had not previously been probed-the role of external auditors, who were 'silent observers' in the years leading to the crisis and board members who were out of depth of their expertise.

    For Irish Red Cross members and staff does this sound familiar or what?!

  13. Anonymous7:33 AM

    True comment above. The reasons for the banking crisis and the crisis at the Irish Red Cross are strikingly similar.

    Herd mentality, group think, cosy consensus, dislike of dissenters, anger at questioning, incompetence, bullying, inadequate experience, insufficiently qualified board and management, obsession with position, status and power, misgovernance, fear, weakness and cowardice.