Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. How has it been supported because it was an expensive operation even to travel and so on and when one bears in mind also that there are those who have said that since September 11 there has not been the same empathy within the United States for PIRA, it is amazing how voices have recently been raised very much there in sympathy with those who have been caught in the act.
  (Mr White) Certainly the financing poses no problems from the PIRA perspective. You only have to look at the background of the three individuals there—one totally unemployed—and ask the question how he could fund five weeks of birdwatching in Colombia. The money can easily be drawn down. We know from intelligence that such monies are easily made available to them and they have the finance to support these people.

  21. If things have moved on what are the implications for Northern Ireland society and for the paramilitary groups themselves of a greater involvement by paramilitary groups in organised crime?
  (Mr White) The philosophy we are pursuing at the moment is one where we focus on the criminal enterprises. What it means for the future of Northern Ireland is that if we do not tackle what we call the legacy of terrorism, in other words, the opportunity of the organised crime groups to link with the paramilitary groups, to focus on money raising operations, what you are condemning the society in Northern Ireland to is a major assault on the legitimate business side because a lot of the activity they are engaged in at the moment undermines the capacity of legitimate business to go ahead. We are well aware in terms of the hydrocarbon fuel activities where some 120-odd petrol stations have gone out of business where petrol sales of a legitimate nature which raises money for the Exchequer have dropped significantly, in the region of 15 or 20 per cent, when in the same period the numbers of vehicles on the roads of Northern Ireland have risen by 20 per cent, so you can see immediately the missing assets from the Exchequer. Current rates there would indicate that something in the region of £600 million loss has been made to the Exchequer, £300 million of that coming from what you would call the legal importation of fuel where you and I and anybody else can cross the border and fill up our vehicle and bring it back, to the fuel laundering side. That is a massive sum of money going from the Exchequer. You can roll that over into the tobacco activities as well, where again cigarettes costing £2 a packet as opposed to £4 are swamping the Northern Ireland market. When you take the other activities of extortion, when the building trade, retail outlets in terms of the fast food industry, are hit and where motor dealers are also very vulnerable, you have almost endemic within the fabric of Northern Ireland, legitimate business interwoven in partnerships with criminal organisations. Once you purchase or take your first load of laundered fuel you are hooked from there on in. There is no means of you getting out. Once you make a contribution to a paramilitary organisation you are caught again in that the law itself can come down on you in having contributed money to an organisation. In that insidious way, if we do not tackle it in a very hard and wholesome way, we are condemning the Northern Ireland business infrastructure to a very substantial uphill struggle to survive. The other side of it is the ongoing impact on society itself in that you breed an attitude of mind that certain aspects of criminality are quite all right. We have suffered somewhat from that in the past, that to defraud the Government by abstracting your electric from the lamp-post in the street or slowing down the meter, it is no big offence, not taxing your car is no big offence, purchasing illegal telephone cards is no big offence. You breed an attitude of mind that certain aspects of criminality are quite acceptable. There is a major battle there for government as a whole to turn the whole culture and attitude of large parts of Northern Ireland around because there is an economic benefit in it. If I live in certain areas of the Province I can get my cigarettes cheap, I can get my alcohol cheap, and the TV licence people do not tread too heavily. If I want counterfeit goods so that my children can wear designer wear, I do not have any real gripe against the paramilitaries who in a sense can provide a lot of that, but that gives them as it were insidious control over those areas in which they live and operate. That is the long term prognosis that we would see, that if we do not tackle organised crime/paramilitary activity head on then you really condemn us to a future that is uncertain in many respects.

  22. One is aware that successful businesses usually grow and what you have been saying is that it is growing quite well. How then should the Government be tackling it when it has been not only on the part of citizens an attitude of "If we can get away with it that is all right"? How far, for example, has the Government not been prepared to proceed with prosecutions at times, and I am thinking of the court service, because of the amount of money that it would cost to proceed with no guarantee of a judgement in the end? How far is it a fact that even the security services, the police and others, in seeking to apprehend such people when regularly they have been let down by the prosecution service?
  (Mr White) Certainly prosecution of major fraud is very expensive. I am not conscious of any offences where we have actually turned away. In addressing the problem we are pursuing two strategies, one of prosecution where prosecution we feel is warranted, and one of disruption, of inhibiting supply. You may not finish up with the individuals before the court but you are actually taking the profits out of their pockets. That has been the sort of strategy we have been pursuing with HM Customs and Excise.

  23. But is it true on the drugs scene that people who were brought before the courts were allowed out on bail? I am thinking of the famous case at Cork, and then Donegal, and the situation pertaining in Ballymena where people were allowed out to raise more money to pay their fines when they came before the courts?
  (Mr White) You face an attitude in which Her Majesty's Government has struck in terms of sentencing where, if there is no violence associated with the crime, then quite often, if it is deemed to be a victimless crime in that sense, the capacity to keep people in custody on remand or to seek what you would call a substantive custodial sentence does not sit too comfortably with the general policy that if there is no violence associated with the offence then non-custodial ways of dealing with the individual as an offender are taken as opposed to putting them behind bars. We try to get the message home to the judiciary and to the magistrates, especially on the dealership aspects of drugs, that sentencing should be the norm there. I must say that when that message has been delivered to the judiciary, sentencing practice and practice notes have gone out from the senior judiciary to the magistrates and to others to make sure that they do not slip into the business of treating those offences with non-custodial sentences. We could certainly argue for longer sentences in relation to those that are put before the courts in relation to extortion where the offences by and large are more serious and up until recently the most severe sentence there has only amounted to five years where in fact 14 years is the maximum, the average being about 35 months. Those offences by and large are carried out by the paramilitaries themselves directly. Our problem there is that we charge under section 20 of the Theft Act which is a 1969 Act, which almost pre-dates the troubles, and whilst we can under section 15 of the Terrorism Act 2000 put a charge in relation to raising funds on behalf of a paramilitary group, it is not a charge that sits there too easily in that proving quite often that it is for a paramilitary group, is a hurdle we cannot cross, but we can get the individual under section 20 of the Theft Act for blackmail or raising money with menaces. Our problem is that no money quite often is handed over at the point in time when the arrest is made because the menaces alone is sufficient to substantiate the charge. Therefore it does not trigger the Proceeds of Crime Act, so quite often we cannot pick their pocket to some degree in processing. There are anomalies within the law that certainly we would welcome working with the Committee in trying to bringing them more into line.

  The Reverend Martin Smyth: It would be helpful if sometime the Committee might be given any suggestions that you feel would strengthen this as we analyse and report.

Mr Tynan

  24. Obviously the types of crime in a paramilitary organisation are involved in. Is crime in Northern Ireland so much higher than on the mainland because of the paramilitary organisations? If the paramilitary organisations did not exist would the ordinary criminal then take up the likes of supplying cigarettes without paying duty to the community? How would you see that situation?
  (Mr White) Thankfully, in Northern Ireland overall crime levels are still substantially below the UK mainland here. In fact, I think we weigh in at the very bottom of the European chart, but it is the undue influence of the nature of the crimes that are there. If paramilitary involvement is perceived as evident in any of the offences, the ability to get witnesses almost disappears in that people just roll over quite often and they do not see the offence happening, or perceive that, "If I do go to court or give evidence then I am a witness today and a victim tomorrow". Quite often this is the dilemma we face between the detection of offences and prosecution. One of the hidden measurements that probably does not make it into the public arena is the number of offences that are withdrawn because the complainant declines to proceed, which means that you cannot take the case on through the courts. That has been a steadily rising figure over the years which means that we are putting less and less of the key people before the courts. In those cases where we have jury trials permitted, for instance, we have had one case where five juries were summoned to hear the one case. Each jury was got at in the process. Consequently we are still very heavily dependent on the Diplock court system. Obviously there are pressures on in terms of the normalisation process, to as it were schedule out offences where they have not got what you would call an overtly paramilitary link to them. We may know that they are paramilitary personalities but if the crime itself does not speak of being one of those that the paramilitaries have a hand in, the likelihood then is that it will be certified out and will go to jury trial. We are on a bit of a learning curve there in relation to how we get individuals before the court, and how we strengthen the witness protection scheme that we need to have in place. The big question for the future obviously will be when can we fully return to a jury trial system and when can we convince the public at large to co-operate with the state. In terms of the police it will be when we can afford the protection that the people need because perception quite often is as big a problem for us as the reality of who actually is engaged in the crime. In that sense we have serious difficulties. If you took the paramilitaries out of it certainly there is an element of the vacuum that will be filled by the organised criminal. The problem with the paramilitaries is that they are now applying the modus operandi that they have perfected over 20-25 years to ordinary criminal operations, so they are fairly slick in how they get the business done. They are well aware of the forensic aspects, they are well aware of the witness aspects. In that sense the very name or even the impression that it is a paramilitary group can silence anyone that might otherwise have chosen to take a stance against them. That comes across very much again on the extortion side where we lose a lot of cases in terms of people not reporting them in the first place. We only hear of about ten per cent of what is affecting the Province. We lose a lot of cases between reporting and appearance in court because the victim makes a choice of not choosing to go ahead with the prosecution or claiming that there has been no further contact from the extortioner. If you look at each offence, it just depends on the overt nature of the paramilitary involvement in it, as to how successful or otherwise we are on the prosecution side.

  25. So the crimes themselves, what are the most lucrative crimes for the paramilitary?
  (Mr White) At the moment you could look at three: tobacco smuggling, hydrocarbon fuels and counterfeit goods.

  26. You mentioned the fact that in some businesses large transactions take place which could be £100,000 and if they want the readies they can get them very quickly. Obviously there must be bankers or accountants or other financial institutions who must be aware of these large transactions. Under those circumstances could not those be identified as regards the amount of money in that kind of circumstance?
  (Mr White) No. We have searched for many years looking for their footprint in the financial institutes. We do get a fairly healthy return on disclosures where financial institutions, banks or others are required to declare suspicious transactions. That results in an element of prosecution but very few of those identify what you would call paramilitary monies. They are still one step ahead of us in the sense that the money is outsourced to legitimate businesses, so rather than walking in through the bank door they are walking in through the pub at the side or the launderette or into the businesses premises of somebody and money is deposited there. It can be put into the individual's personal account, it can go into the company account. It just sits there in sums of money and they can draw down or hide it as part of the profits of that business for the year, so it is tremendously difficult financially to detect but we do, where we think we have a chance employ forensic accountants, at substantial cost, to try and get at these deposits. I must say it is without tremendous success. The biggest success we have had has been when we have gone after them en bloc when we did a big operation a month ago with Customs and Excise and we have nine people there of a substantial nature with assets running into several million pounds that we should be able to get at. However to pull out of that element, the monies that are there that belong to the paramilitaries will be extremely difficult. We just go after the individual and we go after the monies that they have and if the paramilitaries lose out in the process then that is a benefit, but stripping it down to finding out what sums of money come from them would take years of backtracking. It is back to what Mr Smyth said in relation to the cost aspect of it, whether or not it would be beneficial at the end of the day to know. We go after the individual and the money there. It is a difficult one and one we are still very much working on.

  27. The Proceeds of Crime Bill is going through the House at the present time. Are you aware of that?
  (Mr White) Yes.

  28. Will that be of assistance?
  (Mr White) Certainly we are waiting on the Criminal Assets Bureau being established. That gives us a civil standard of proof and there is the reverse burden of proof dimension attached to that as well. We have a series of individuals lined up whose homes we would wish to visit and who have not got much visible means of support for the life style they lead. Our worry and concern is that obviously to match the workload to the size of the organisation that will be set up, there maybe the tendency here on the mainland to strike a financial threshold that is probably going to be in excess of what would trigger off the activity we would wish. We have been lobbying the NIO to make sure that the financial threshold set for the rest of GB here, is not one that is carried across to ourselves, so that we can put different personalities within the frame. That is equally applicable to the Secretary of State in terms of technical warrants and things of that nature where there is consideration being given to setting a financial limit in relation to cannabis. Cannabis on the mainland, the Chairman will appreciate, is seen as a lower level of drug abuse than heroin and cocaine. Thankfully, Northern Ireland is still ten years behind in terms of drug abuse and the main drug of abuse in our part of the world is still cannabis and Ecstasy and that is the way I wish to maintain it. I would not wish to see anything struck by the Secretary of State here as being applicable to the rest of GB to deny me the warranty for the technical assistance that I would wish to employ against those that are drug dealing within the Province. It is another area that if the Committee has an opportunity to visit I would welcome any pressure you can bring to bear there.

  29. Apart from additional finance, are there any other measures that you would recommend that we pursue?
  (Mr White) The approach we are adopting at the moment is one of pursuing what you would call the criminal enterprise and if I could use extortion again as an example of an area which causes us tremendous concern because we believe that there is only about ten per cent of extortion cases in the Province reported to the police and that there is payment by legitimate business to the paramilitaries of substantial sums of money. That can range, if it is a multinational company, from anything in the region of £200,000 down to £20 or £50 a week from a small retail outlet. When all that is aggregated it is big sums of money. The paramilitaries are smart. They do not bleed their host source. They live off it. They will tailor their financial demands to the financial profile of the business so they do not damage its capacity to keep producing. The problem is that when you do get a witness on board, so it might be prudent for the Committee to look at the Italians' approach to this work, where the Mafia has long since been heavily into extortion. The Italian Government, having recognised this, has put into place financial support mechanisms so that a business man who is extorted has a fairly good system to make his report to and then if he does choose to go through with prosecution he is supported financially to re-establish himself. Regretfully, the way we approach it at the moment is a very money-pinching way in that the individual, if he elects to give evidence on our part, goes on almost to DHSS support services. He is moved in to a council estate, given a minimum sum of money in terms of what he would be entitled to as an unemployed person. If he is a businessman he gets absolutely no money to re-establish himself and is required to sell his own business within the Province if he can and he must employ his own lawyer to do that. He is self-financing in that aspect of it. His house will be taken off him under the emergency provisions with the housing executive called SPED, which allows a house to be purchased at local rates. In other words little or no allowance is made for personal home improvements, so he gets the bare minimum for what that house is worth. When you look at those aspects I would ask the Committee to look to see holistically, following the offence through, are all the things in place that would be needed to support each step of the way those individuals who are the victims of crime and who would wish to take some stance with the Police Service against the paramilitaries. Are they, when they do the sums in their head, more inclined to say, "It is better to pay and keep paying. Therefore I can stay in business, I can stay with my relatives and friends", because you will appreciate that if you have to go on the run leaving behind your whole social fabric and getting nothing to replace that, you do not really have much of a choice as a businessman. When you do the sums in your head you just roll over and pay. If we are meaningfully going to tackle it we have got to take it down to the bare wire and see in the nature of each offence what are the unique issues that have to be addressed to get that element of evidence that we need to prosecute the paramilitaries. If they get alongside you in a major extortion or in relation to hydrocarbon fuels and you are forced to strike a deal with them, then they have got you hooked. Once you accept your first load of laundered fuel you are not hard to persuade the second time around because the influence is there, the blackmail is almost there as well. Sometimes you get into a cosy partnership in that if you are making 30p a litre more than your competitor down the road is making your profits go up and you are in business whilst he disappears. There is comfort in some of these issues. That is the insidious aspect of it. It is the same thing when you buy "security" in the building trade. Security can very quickly change from being the contribution that you make. The next time around you might be offered, "Would you like to know what your competitors are bidding for the new estate that you wish to build?" We know in the past that deals have been struck on the basis of that. In that insidious way the paramilitary gets even closer to the individual and deals are struck. There is an element of comfort that comes within the business circle sometimes and once hooked that is you forever doing business with them. It is that link that we have to cut. The only way you can do that is by a detailed study of each aspect of the criminal enterprises that are there to fund the aspects of organised crime/terrorism.

Mr McGrady

  30. My question is in response to an answer you gave to Mr Tynan regarding the data coming from financial institutions because I think that one of the ways of tackling the broad spectrum of this is to take out the godfathers of the rackets which are almost coterminous with the godfathers of the paramilitaries. The answer you gave was that you get a substantial amount of data from financial institutions but that very little of it can be interpreted as being from money laundering exercise. This constantly surprises me because the banking institutions, and we are talking about huge corporations, can very readily identify on a weekly basis upsurges in the volume of money going through and can quite easily identify any amount that indicates that something is astray here. I look at the statistics and I am totally surprised that the figures for last year were something under £400,000. To me it is peanuts in the whole exercise. How does this happen?
  (Mr White) There is no effective enforcement aspect we in the Police Service can bring to bear on this. It is an obligation placed on the financial institutions and it is by and large only subscribed to by the banks at this moment in time where we have declared annually. It is something in excess of a thousand plus disclosures of suspicious money movements. Quite often a good few turn out to be legitimate but triggered by a that change in what you call banking patterns. There is no obligation on accountants to make those disclosures but that will come in the Proceeds of Crime Act. I cannot think of one disclosure that I have had from the legal profession despite the legal profession handling substantial sums of money from both purchasers of business, houses and property. There is a whole raft of people within the financial structure who we have to find a mechanism of enervating in terms of the public interest and placing some legal obligation upon them to do it. Accountants do not step outside the business remit that they have struck with the company accounts they are doing, to see themselves as having a public duty to come to the Police Service to make disclosures. In that sense we are denied the benefits of what is there. The banks are the only ones at the moment that subscribe but a thousand-odd disclosures is not a big number in a year. The Americans have a system where anything in excess of 10,000 dollars requires a disclosure by the individual himself especially if money is moving out of the state and all disclosure requirements are legally based. That would be an area worthy of perusal. What we have at the moment is of a voluntary nature. It will be enhanced to some degree by the Proceeds of Crime Act but with the legal people who handle a fair amount of money you could count on the fingers of one hand the numbers of disclosures that come our way. In unravelling existing disclosures very few of them would have any links whatsoever as disclosures in relation to the paramilitaries. The only time we get those is if we take an individual and do our own financial profile on him and ask specifically of banks for disclosures in relation to those particular clients. Those are investigations triggered by ourselves.

  31. What still surprises with the involvement of what I understand are agreed disclosure remits is that there is so little by way of prosecution brought to conclusion and also the reverse of that, how it is that the known godfathers are not targeted by the financial profile and pursued in that way. I will leave that because you have answered it but it still puzzles me.
  (Mr White) It is mainly down to resource capacity. Every investigation we do which has a criminal enterprise aspect attached to it we do try to do a proceeds of crime investigation but it takes some time for those effects to work through in that the courts can give anything up to three years before confiscation kicks in, and so money is actually sitting due to be confiscated. The Proceeds of Crime Act only came into effect in 1996 so we are only now starting to see the confiscation aspect coming through. This is not an issue for the police. It is an issue for the court bailiffs. We have to look at that. You may have an individual that has all the hallmarks of living a very lucrative lifestyle with no financial income and there is no mechanism at this moment in time for going after that individual other than if you can get him for being involved in street crime itself. As you quite rightly pointed out, that individual is simply bankrolling his life style from the purchase of drugs or whatever else. The financial trail is very well hidden and it is extremely difficult to go back through all the processes to get at that individual. The Proceeds of Crime Act is the first break in that area and hopefully there will be a basket of individuals that you and I and others would know will be a target in that respect.

Mr McCabe

  32. Mr White, I wanted to pick up an answer you gave to my colleague Mr Tynan and checked that I understood correctly. When you referred to the drugs market and cannabis in particular I understood you to say that you would prefer not to follow the trend that the Home Secretary appears to have established here which is roughly around re-classifying and I guess a trend towards de-criminalising the drug. Was that what you said?
  (Mr White) I was not talking about the de-criminalising aspect of it. If I spoke on that it would have been a personal view. I was speaking in respect of the drug abuse scene within Northern Ireland which is still one that is predicated almost entirely on Ecstasy and cannabis. The amounts of heroin and cocaine abuse are extremely small. The picture I was trying to paint was one of Northern Ireland being at least ten years behind in terms of the development where heroin and cocaine, class A drugs, are the big issue here, and quite rightly resources being put against those by the Home Secretary and the policing services here are very much focussed on those drugs. I am saying that when it comes to tackling the drug scene I am coming along to Customs and Excise with 250 kilos of cannabis being the issue of importation that I would wish to inhibit and they are looking at me and saying, "I am looking at 500 kilos of heroin coming in. Take your problem down the corridor somewhere else." What I am arguing for in relation to our drugs scene and the desire to preserve it at the level at which it is now and not to see it worsening. If there is a threshold set here by the Home Secretary which is designed to address the GB problem, when it can have indirect effects on ourselves in that if those thresholds are set which almost exclude cannabis as being a serious concern I lose the gateways that I have with the Customs and Excise and others where I need to do an interdiction at Dover or somewhere else before those drugs get into the Province, or where I am applying for a Secretary of State's warrant for a telephone interception. If I say it is for cannabis at a certain level, that may be a major dealer in the Northern Ireland sense but he does not come into the frame at all when it comes to the Secretary of State. All I was saying was, be aware of the distinction between the Northern Ireland drugs scene and the GB drugs scene and do not by the association of what you call tariffs or thresholds indirectly block us from the avenues of detection that we have at present.


  33. When you said you were delighted it was less of a problem what you meant was that you were delighted that you do not have the GB problem.
  (Mr White) Exactly.

Mr McCabe

  34. I am grateful to you for clarifying that because I had misunderstood. Maybe it is unfair to ask you to speculate on this but if the principal drug issue in Northern Ireland is cannabis and if the street price is significantly lower than it is in the rest of Britain and it is the most widely consumed drug, would there not be a persuasive case for saying that Northern Ireland should go further than the rest of Britain and move to some sort of regulated legal market which would cut out the terrorist financing element altogether? I realise it is a difficult issue and I am not trying to ask you to speculate on the moral view of drugs, but I am thinking purely that if the position is that it is already widely consumed and the price is lower than it is in Britain and the principle established in the rest of Britain is to move to de-classifying it and a trend towards de-criminalising it, could there be a case for saying that Northern Ireland should go further and try to regulate the market and therefore take the criminals and the terrorists out of it altogether?
  (Mr White) I can see your line of argument about it. I think it is beyond me at this moment, Chairman, to take that issue forward. The simple stance we are adopting is one where we are terribly keen to see even cannabis much reduced. The history of hard drug abuse in the Province, and the studies that have been done, quite clearly show that the vast majority of those on heroin and cocaine have come at it through the softer drugs scene in the sense of cannabis and such. It is like everything else, if something is legalised such as cannabis, I would not hesitate to say that within 12 months you will have some enterprising criminal who will have found something involving cannabis plus, the additional kick would be there, so straightaway cannabis would be alright at one level but if you are working for a bit more then you step into the illegal market and get cannabis plus. We are already seeing polydrug abuse going on. So it is an argument for another day.

  Chairman: We are in a very interesting area but can we try and discipline ourselves a bit and try and stick rather more closely to our subject? Your answers, Mr White, have been very clear and interesting, too, but let's just try and narrow it down.

Mr Bailey

  35. It is getting back to the issue of business extortion and the association of businesses with the paramilitaries. The picture you paint to me seems to show that it must be very difficult indeed to carry out a legitimate business in Northern Ireland without having some sort of association with one or other of the paramilitary groups. Has any assessment been done of just how many businesses are either victims of extortion or work knowingly with the paramilitaries in any way whatsoever, and some I appreciate will be laundering?
  (Mr White) It is an area, sir, where we are actively working at this moment in time. When we asked for and conducted what we call the first strategic overview of organised crime—and I think, Mr Chairman, that document has been made available to the Committee—the big bit that is missing out of that is the private sector. We sought, and have sought through a survey conducted earlier in the year, to try and get returns from the private sector as to how organised crime or ordinary crime was impacting on their business as such. I must say that the returns were pitiful. I have engaged with the Security Minister, Jane Kennedy, on this very issue. What we are trying to do and what is organised for the latter half of this month round about the 29th is a meeting between herself, myself, I think Sir Reg Empey and the Confederation representatives of the building trade and motor trade and others. We have found that trying to directly engage individuals who are in business on this issue is not a very productive way because they are faced with talking to police officers, so indirectly what we are trying to do with those confederated bodies, the Confederation of Building Trades and others, that represent the various industries that are out there in a third party sense, is to try to get them to give us a picture of what their membership is actually facing. That will take, I would suspect, 24 months at least to extract any worthwhile picture there, but by including it in the annual picture we will be publishing as to how organised crime is impacting on the Province, we are hoping to slowly draw those people into a mechanism that allows them to make those disclosures. It is back to what I was saying before. The Government needs to think through the situation and, having got the person to the point where he is making a disclosure, there are two avenues to go down. The first is to stop at that point and say no more but simply know I am there, so that he is not opening himself or herself up to chances of prosecution for simply making a disclosure. The second is if he or she is intent on taking the issue on through, to get rid of the monkey on their back, then the right infrastructure must be there to support those people. That means resettlement programmes, business support programmes and everything else. It is a nut we are trying to crack at this moment in time. I am not at all sure that I will be successful by the end of the month. I will know better on the 30th as to whether it has gone down like a lead balloon and whether they will maintain their silence, but the idea is to try and let the Confederations and those in a representative role speak on behalf of their members if the members will not speak for themselves.

  36. To a certain extent you have anticipated what was my supplementary to the supplementary. Would it be helpful to have, in effect, an amnesty for companies to give information? I appreciate that there will be some, like the small retail unit, where an amnesty would not be any good because they would be targeted within their own communities, but larger and more sophisticated organisations could effectively give that information without the paramilitaries necessarily knowing it?
  (Mr White) An amnesty might be appropriate but these people run up against issues of income tax law as well in that you may have been making a payment and been concealing it and not making declarations within your returns, so there are various hidden dissuaders there in terms of the encouragement of people. It all needs to be unpicked slowly. The key part is making the victim feel that he does not have to stay a hidden victim and has some capacity with an element of immunity, I suspect, to come out and make those disclosures, but that requires a fair degree of work by the Government to attack the perception that is there and to afford people a confidential mechanism to make those disclosures and then not to hit them through income tax laws or anything else for having done so.

  37. In the long run we need to get the people behind the extortion rather than those who are themselves victims.
  (Mr White) The first objective would be to get clarity of picture of what we are dealing with.

Mr Beggs

  38. To what extent does Northern Ireland's culture of cash businesses and cash transactions complicate the process of investigation and enforcement? What has been done to help you in your approach to encompass these problems?
  (Mr White) That is a substantive problem. We are not short of examples where paramilitaries have walked into certain key businesses on the Boucher Road and have walked out with two Mercedes or two BMWs having just paid in cash. There is nothing in place that requires the motor trade or any other business to make disclosures in relation to that cash transaction, so in that sense it can be totally hidden from us and the only evidence of it we see is when we note the individual in yet another new vehicle. So the business of cash transactions always frustrates the capacity to follow it through because there is no necessity for the individual in some transactions to even leave his true identity behind. Obviously if he is registering the vehicle he will be required to give certain details, but in other businesses the cash transaction will always defeat our capacity to investigate.

  39. Have you, for example, made any recent check-up on new vehicles registered to ex-prisoners because I hear on the ground all kinds of comment about so-and-so with a new four wheel drive truck, a new horse box behind, a couple of nags in it and a full time groom or driver, and that is only one example, but maybe that is another source that could be pursued.
  (Mr White) You can add to that the jet skis, the holiday home and everything else.

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