Gardaí have installed new IT software to help them deal more speedily with thousands of reports of suspicious financial transactions.
The move is one of a series of measures taken in response to a review carried out by an international body of Ireland’s money laundering and counter-terrorist financing systems.
It is already being hailed as a valuable asset by the financial intelligence unit (FIU), which is based within the Garda’s National Economic Crime Bureau.
The independent Financial Action Task Force is a policy-making organisation that spearheads the international fight against crime.
It criticised what it called a lack of sophisticated IT software, which meant there were limits on the ability of the FIU to undertake strategic analysis.
But it found that the integrated nature of the Garda force, whose roles include crime and security matters, mitigated the technical issues.
There have been calls to hive off security from the Garda and set up a separate agency as part of a major overhaul of the policing organisation. But several international experts in the EU and the US have pointed to the advantages of having a unitary force, resulting in close co-operation and seamless sharing of intelligence about domestic and international terrorist threats.
Financial institutions are obliged by law to report suspicious transactions and these are now all being filed online and examined more quickly.
The task force evaluation found that while Ireland had “sound” laws to pursue money laundering and asset confiscation, it had not yet achieved prosecutions or convictions for terrorist financing.
It said this might reflect reluctance on behalf of prosecutors to test the money laundering laws or a conservative approach by the judiciary, which acted as a disincentive to investigate complex money laundering cases.
The task force said Ireland had not fully demonstrated an ability to identify, investigate and prosecute a range of money laundering activity with foreign links but said it had a strong legislative framework and an active Criminal Assets Bureau.
But while Ireland had some success in guilty pleas for money laundering, assessors were concerned there had been no convictions after a trial.
However, current Garda inquiries into an alleged terror financing case in the south-east of the country could result in a criminal prosecution.
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