PracticeAccounting FirmsAssets agency too small for terrorists

Assets agency too small for terrorists

The proposed Assets Recovery Agency for Northern Ireland will be unable to deal with massive financial empires built up by terrorist groups, a Commons committee has warned.

MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee welcomed ministers’ agreement to their demand that the ten staff allocated to the agency be allowed to hide their identities behind false names in court.

But they pointed out its intended resources are tiny compared with the Criminal Assets Bureau in Dublin, which has 45 staff, including forensic accountants and financial investigators.

Their report warned: ‘The contrast is stark. This allocation of staff to Northern Ireland will be unlikely to provide the range and critical mass of skills required and their impact will be limited.

‘There is little to be gained and far more to lose from proceeding with assets recovery on the limited basis indicated by the government in Northern Ireland,’ the MPs said.

They added that the police had warned of a large number of potential targets for the agency and were worried it could be swamped.

The report said the para-militaries were turning to white collar organised crime to maintain income, with money laundering at the top of a risk assessment list.

It said cutting off the groups, who have continuing ‘overhead costs’, from sources of finance, was vital.

And MPs said they had been told the Provisional IRA ‘has been reported to employ professional accountants’ to look after their assets and investment portfolios.

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