19 March 2009

Top prosecutors stress importance of cross-border co-operation in fight against organised crime

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ireland, James Hamilton and the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, Sir Alasdair Fraser jointly host an EU co-financed cross border conference in Dublin on 19/20 March 2009 on combating cross border fraud and corruption.

The conference – ‘Cross Border Fraud, Corruption and European Union Financial Interests’ – is co-financed by the Anti Fraud Office of the European Union (OLAF) and will run over two days. It has attracted some 130 officers and practitioners from investigative, prosecutorial and asset seizing agencies from over twenty six European countries. The conference will focus on the issues facing the investigator, prosecutor and Revenue/Customs agencies in dealing with trans-national fraud, facilitate exchanges of information and experience, identify and share best practices and enhance multi-agency cooperation and networking throughout the European Union.

Speaking at the start of the Conference, James Hamilton said:

“Organised crime and in particular cross-border fraud is a huge challenge facing all of us. Evidence shows us that organised criminals are increasingly sophisticated, operating across borders and continents.

They constantly seek to change their methods of operating in order to evade the attention of law enforcement agencies and it is vital that we too keep pace with emerging trends to ensure that our efforts are appropriately and effectively targeted.

We therefore need an international response to an international problem. That challenge can only be met through collective responsibility and effective co-operation locally, nationally and internationally. Through co-operation, sharing of intelligence and expertise we can add real value in combating organised crime.

Commenting on the nature and impact of cross border fraud, Sir Alasdair Fraser said:

“Organised criminals have a long tradition of exploiting tax differentials and currency fluctuations particularly in border areas on the island of Ireland. These activities have caused losses to both jurisdictions and to European Union financial interests, revenue which is vital to maintain and improve critical public services and bolster our economy.

Make no mistake, cigarette smuggling, fuel smuggling, oils, alcohol and cross-border VAT frauds are crimes. These affect every man, women and child in our society.

I am confident that this conference will enable us to establish an effective network between the key players throughout the European Union, strengthen the existing levels of co-operation and further develop best practice,” he added.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud, welcomed the conference’s objectives:

“Given that the fraudsters do not recognise borders, co-operation, information exchange and mutual assistance across borders are essential to the Commission and to OLAF to ensure that EU funds receive the same level of protection as national funds”.