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Spying and asset-seizing powers toughened up in gangland crime blitz

New spy laws are being created and drug dealers and gangsters face having assets worth as little as 5,000 euros seized in a renewed blitz on gangland crime.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has arranged summits next week with her counterparts in Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium as security chiefs look to break an unprecedented cycle of underworld feuding that has left seven men dead.

And as the Government ratchets up pressure on organised crime, security chiefs have been asked to devise ways of toughening surveillance laws to monitor gangland bosses and their associates.

The first step is to extend the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

In future officers will be able to freeze assets worth just 5,000 euros rather than 13,500 euros and seize sums of cash of 1,000 euros or less if detectives suspect they were the proceeds of crime.

“We have seen unprecedented gangland violence in the last few weeks. However long it takes, whatever resources are necessary, we will face down the activities of these ruthless gangs,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“I want to acknowledge the great work of An Garda Siochana in dealing with this situation. My proposals are aimed squarely at helping them in this work.

“I intend to introduce legislative measures to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau to make it easier to seize assets and money from criminals.”

The proposed new covert surveillance powers will be published “in the near future”, Ms Fitzgerald said, and they will focus on intercepting phones and other communications as well as other electronic spying.

Another initiative is the creation of a special crime task force which will work alongside the Revenue Commissioners and Department of Social Protection, and their job will be to “focus relentlessly on persons involved in gangland activities”.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “The message we are sending to these criminal gangs is that there will be no let-up in the pressure upon them. Communities have been put in fear by the cycle of mindless killings we have witnessed.

“These measures are aimed at breaking that cycle and to bring home to these people that no-one is above the law.”

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Justice chiefs and Garda management have been asked for their ideas on other law reforms which are needed to crackdown on gangland crime.

Ms Fitzgerald said her talks with ministers in Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium will focus on the transnational dimensions of organised crime.

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