Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. I welcome the Bill, the primary purpose of which is to transpose, in part, the fourth EU money laundering directive into national law and to give effect to the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.
I have three main points that I ask the Minister and his officials to consider. First, and perhaps it might be a matter which can be returned to on Committee Stage, has consideration been given by the Department to the introduction of measures which are broadly termed the “Magnitsky Act”, with which the Minister may be familiar, and which have been introduced in other EU countries, including the UK, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia? I note section 10 of the Bill includes the introduction of a designated person to carry out risk assessments to identify and assess the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing involved in carrying on the designated person’s business activities.
Second, what about providing accountability or creating a deterrent in regard to a person who has committed gross violations of human rights? I would value the Minister’s thoughts and opinions on this, not just in regard to financial money laundering, but also abuse of human rights and the effect that can have in the context of money laundering. For example, it is one thing to create a criminal offence for failing to comply with the regulatory oversight that is envisaged by a designated person under a section 10 risk assessment, but it is quite another to consider what actions can be undertaken when risks are identified. For example, how might a Minister freeze funds or economic resources held or controlled by a person if money laundering or terrorist financing is identified by a designated person?
Third, what about third parties connected to the activities identified? How about extending this beyond terrorist financing and money laundering to persons connected to gross human rights violations? As the Minister is no doubt aware, when the Trump Administration introduced its Russian sanctions regime recently, it reportedly affected an aluminium plant in Limerick, owned by a Russian oligarch, that supplies as much as 30% of the European alumina market.
Does the Minister believe Ireland can or should do more in using either money laundering legislation or other forms of legislation to impede those connected to gross human rights violations or does he believe those safeguards are already in place within the current money laundering legislative framework? As he is no doubt aware, the European Parliament, as far back as 2014, passed a resolution calling on EU Ministers to develop an EU-wide regime whereby sanctions could be imposed and human rights violators identified so their financial assets could be frozen. The Council of Europe Assembly this month proposed a motion that calls on all member states of the Council of Europe and the EU to consider enacting legislation or other legal instruments enabling their governments, under the general supervision of parliament, to impose targeted sanctions such as visa bans and account freezes on individuals reasonably believed to be personally responsible for serious human rights violations for which they enjoy impunity on political or corrupt grounds.
I look forward to the Minister’s reply. Where appropriate, I may come back on Committee Stage with amendments to the Bill that could see some of those recommendations fulfilled and protections against gross human rights abusers strengthened.
Senator Ó Céidigh raised a number of issues regarding sanctions. The economic sanctions regime in Ireland is based on EU regulations. We work in conjunction with our EU colleagues. We work closely with them. We ensure that any sanctions applied – any sanction regime to which we are associated – are based on an EU approach, which are in turn transposed by means of a statutory instrument signed in general by the Minister for Finance and, for the time being, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Each of those statutory instruments designates a particular entity or group for sanctions and creates an offence of breaching the sanction. Any offence of this nature, like all other offences, is a matter for An Garda Síochána but we do that in sync with our EU colleagues, and we transpose the agreement by way of a domestic statutory instrument.
I want to acknowledge also the role of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on this issue insofar as the Department, through the Foreign Affairs Council of Ministers, which meets on a monthly basis, deals with these issues such as sanctions on a country-by-country basis on a month-to-month basis or three monthly, as the case might be. I refer in particular to the current regime of sanctions relating to Russia and its illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea as part of Ukraine. As an individual Government or state, we do not engage unilaterally in any sanction regime but we do introduce our own domestic statutory instrument in accordance with what we would agree at a European Council basis. I would be happy to engage further with Senator Ó Céidigh and if he wishes to make a submission in advance of the next Stage of the Bill, I would be happy to look at the issues as raised.