Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she is in favour of drug dealers paying a higher rate of tax on their earnings after it emerged they pay the same rates as ordinary law-abiding workers.
When asked by reporters if drug dealers should be taxed at a higher rate, Ms McEntee said “it wouldn’t be a bad thing”.
“If that's something that needs to be done, it would have to be done in consultation with, and in conjunction with my colleagues and Government,” Ms McEntee told reporters during a press briefing at the Garda Training College, Templemore, when discussing the publication of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) annual report 2021.
Ms McEntee said that while changes to the tax system for criminals was not presently being considered by the Government, “that’s not to say in the future, it's not something that won't ever be looked at”.
The CAB, which identifies and seizes assets suspected to have had been purchased with the proceeds of crime, said in its 2021 annual report that it had deprived criminals of almost €11 million, returned €5.5 million to the exchequer and recouped €5.5 million to six victims of cryptocurrency theft.
The bureau, set up 26 years ago following the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin after her work shone a spotlight on the activities of Ireland’s drug barons, identified around 24 drug dealers last year as owing more than €3 million in tax.
CAB said it also recouped around €250,000 from another 33 drug dealers last year.
Between 1996 and 2021, the bureau has returned a total of €204 million to the exchequer, comprising €165 million in tax settlements, €33 million in proceeds of crime and €6 million in social welfare recoupments.
In total, over 360 proceeds of crime cases have been brought to the courts, involving almost €170 million in alleged crime assets.
Chief Bureau Officer, Det Chief Supt Michael Gubbins, told reporters that CAB had 61 houses under its control at the start of this year, and had confiscated over 80 cars with suspected links to money laundering through the motor trade.
Det Chief Supt Gubbins said CAB had trained “over 100 extra divisional Asset Profilers” – agents who identify CAB targets – with the force, the Department of Social Protection and Revenue and other agencies bringing the total number of profilers to “over 552”.
Mr Gubbins said ordinary members of the public are the eyes and ears of CAB and thanked them for providing hundreds of tip-offs in 2021.
“Some people phone us, some email us, some write to us; sometimes it’s a short note, other times it’s a large dossier, and, in 2021 we had 321 of those Good Citizen Reports as we like to call them, and they are very important to us – they give us additional information, or sometimes they can identify an additional target,” he said.
Asked at what rate drug dealers and other criminals are taxed on their income, Mr Gubbins replied: “They’re taxed at the normal rate [the same as everybody else], yes.”
Asked if he felt this was right or if drug dealers should pay a higher tax rate, Mr Gubbins replied: “That’s the rate that is there and that is the system that we work with.”
Asked if he would like to see it overhauled against the criminal, Mr Gubbins, continued: “We use the Revenue metrics and system in place to tax them, so unless somebody else wants to change [it] ... but for now we use that system”.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was also asked if he would like to see drug dealers pay a higher rate of tax and said: “Well, I have to say taxation is not my speciality. But what has already been brought forward is actually the proposal around the publication of individuals who've been dealt with through CAB and down who have made a return in respect of taxation.”
“Obviously taxation is pursued as one tactic, there are other tactics as well as to the proceeds of crime, that happens in the public arena and people see the consequences of that. The actual tax rates are not my speciality. I can't comment on those,” Mr Harris said.