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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
New clampdown on crime proceeds
Illegal operations are making thousands of pounds a week
Plans are annouced to seize assests of criminals
The grip is tightening on organised crime in Northern Ireland, Secretary of State John Reid has said.

Dr Reid outlined tough new plans to clamp down on "gangsterism" at the launch of the Organised Crime Task Force's threat assessment and strategy on Thursday.

He announced plans for an assets recovery agency for Northern Ireland to resemble the Criminal Assets Bureau in the Irish Republic.

The bureau has been seen as one of the successes in tackling organised crime in the republic.

It seizes what it believes are the proceeds of crime, including property and cash in bank accounts.

ACC Chris Albiston
ACC Chris Albiston: 42 crime networks disrupted

Dr Reid said the Proceeds of Crime Bill now passing through parliament would establish the assets recovery agency.

"Our grip is tightening on organised crime and no effort will be spared in the fight against the tyranny of gangsterism in Northern Ireland," he said.

The task force report was welcomed by the Policing Board.

"The Organised Crime Task Force, working in multi-agency partnership, clearly demonstrates the success of this approach to tackling crime and criminality," said board chairman Professor Desmond Rea.

"Organised crime is a serious threat to everyone in our society but the strategic priorities set today will ensure that key areas of concern are tackled robustly."

The Organised Crime Task Force, which was set up in September 2000, is also chaired by Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy.

The first and deputy first ministers of Northern Ireland's power sharing government and representatives from the partner agencies of the task force attended the event.

They were joined by representatives from business, industry, law and finance.

Examples of seizures by the force and Customs and Excise were put on display.

Growing problem

Fake goods with an estimated value of 4m were seized by police in Northern Ireland last year - more than all the other UK police forces combined.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Chris Albiston said 42 organised crime networks were disrupted by police operations in that period.

He said half of all the networks operating in the province were connected to paramilitary organisations.

"It's important to confront all aspects of organised crime, regardless of the backgrounds of the criminals," he said.

On Tuesday, a multi-million pound fraud ring centred on Northern Ireland's construction industry was smashed following a major security operation.

Raids were carried out following intelligence gathered by the Organised Crime Task Force, which includes police, Customs and Excise and the Northern Ireland Office.

In March this year, a special adviser with experience in combatting Mafia activities was appointed to help tackle Northern Ireland's growing organised crime problem.

American Professor Ronald Goldstock was asked to join the task force by Dr Reid.

Professor Goldstock advises Dr Reid on securing cross-community support for action in tackling the problem.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Colette Maguire
"Last year over 4m worth of counterfeit goods were seized in Northern Ireland"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | N Ireland
05 Dec 01 | N Ireland
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