92. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the Criminal Assets Bureau successfully continues to pursue organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21316/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act, 1996. The Bureau’s remit is to target a person's assets, wherever situated, which derive, or are suspected to derive, directly or indirectly, from criminal conduct. Since its inception, the Bureau has been at the forefront of fighting organised crime in this jurisdiction and disrupting the activities of criminal gangs by depriving them of ill-gotten assets.
The Bureau is widely regarded as a best practice model in the context of combatting organised crime. Its structure and powers have been modelled by other jurisdictions. It works closely with law enforcement bodies at national and international levels and continues to relentlessly pursue the illicit proceeds of organised crime activity. The actions of the Bureau send a strong message to criminals and to local communities that profiting from crime won't be tolerated.
Reflecting the Government's commitment to ensure that the Bureau is adequately resourced, the CAB’s staffing and budgetary allocation has increased significantly in recent years. Since 2016, the Bureau's staffing resources have increased from 71 to its current level of 84, with staff numbers due to rise to 91 during this year. Similarly, the Bureau's budgetary allocation has gone up from €7.042 million in 2016 to €8.603m in 2019.
The increased resources of the CAB have given rise to substantially increased levels of Bureau activity and its successful operations have become a regular feature in media reports. In 2018, the Bureau brought 30 new Proceeds of Crime proceedings before the High Court, up from 28 in 2017 and 13 in 2016. This is the largest number of new cases ever commenced by the Bureau in a single year. Likewise, the money returned to the State as a result of CAB actions increased from €3.8 million in 2016 to €4.3 million in 2017. The provisional figure for 2018 is in excess of €5.6 million.
CAB is supported in its work by a nationwide network of trained Asset Profilers. Asset profilers work hand-in-hand with local Garda Management and communities towards the objective of denying and depriving criminals of assets. The number of asset profiles submitted to the Bureau, by the nationwide network, increased from 66 in 2016 to 184 in 2018, a 178 per cent increase. This increase has been driven by the growth in the number of Garda, Revenue and Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection personnel who have been trained as Asset Profilers. There is now a national network of almost 380 trained asset profilers compared with 279 at the end of 2017. Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 89.