By Fergus Black
Wednesday May 02 2001
ALMOST 200 people in Northern Ireland who enjoy lavish lifestyles from the proceeds of crime are to be targeted by a new agency similar to the Republic's highly successful Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
This was revealed as members of a Northern Ireland Assembly ad hoc committee on the proceeds of crime yesterday visited the CAB in Dublin to see how the Irish agency operates.
Members of the committee met top officers in the CAB, including its chief bureau officer, Chief Supt Felix McKenna and its legal officer Barry Galvin.
The all-party committee, which was set up last month, has until May 28 to make its submission to the British Home Secretary on proposed new UK legislation to set up a Criminal Assets Recovery Agency.
But the committee wants to see the new agency modelled on the Republic's successful CAB which has been in operation here since 1966 and which has recovered millions of pounds in criminal assets.
Committee chairman Alban Maginness said they wanted to deprive criminals of the benefits of crime.
Evidence given by the RUC to Assembly members revealed 180 people that the RUC could immediately identify as criminals who enjoyed lavish lifestyles.
A recent survey identified 78 criminal gangs operating in the North, about 44 of which were paramilitary gangs and the remainder were criminal.
Criminal activities such as fuel smuggling, cigarette smuggling, money laundering, VAT scams and drugs will top the agenda of the new body, which he hopes would be up and running in a year.
Mr Maginness described yesterday's visit to Dublin by the committee as a valuable lesson in learning and co-operation between North and South.
- Fergus Black