With the Minister for Justice announcing new provisions to tackle the issue of white-collar crime, the Garda Síochána (Irish police force) have also signalled their intention to make this area a priority for 2012.

The Garda Policing Plan 2012, which was published earlier this year, has a stated aim of ‘confronting criminality in all its forms’, with this to include a particular focus on corruption.

In practical terms, this will see specialist units such as the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau working closely with Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) to investigate fraud cases.

In turn, the ODCE has also pledged to continue with a robust pursuit of suspected breaches of company law, with the office determining over 1,900 cases in 2011, resulting in 20 disqualifications by the High Court and two restrictions for misconduct or irresponsibility by directors in the management of company affairs.

In his Annual Report for 2011, published on 1 June 2012, the ODCE repeated his office’s commitment to heightened scrutiny: “through its compliance, investigation and enforcement work, the ODCE intends to continue to play its part in 2012 in encouraging high standards of corporate governance in the State.”

As with the Minister for Justice’s plans to reform laws on white-collar crime and whistle-blowing (see previous article), the statements by the ODCE and the Gardaí indicate the existence of a more co-ordinated approach to regulation in Ireland. This is in keeping with the findings of the Honohan, Nyberg and Regling-Watson reports on the Irish banking crisis, which called not only for greater sanctions and increased regulation, but also a more stringent approach in terms of the enforcement of existing regulations.

Ireland’s more co-ordinated approach to dealing with white-collar crime also reflects what are wider EU initiatives to tackle corruption and fraud, particularly on a cross-border basis.

The Irish Government has recently announced its entry into EU negotiations for a directive providing for European wide sanctions for insider dealing and market manipulation. We will watch this space and provide you with updates as we receive them.