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Ireland legislates for new corporate crime agency

A new agency with powers to investigate and prosecute cases of corporate crime is to be set up in Ireland.07 Dec 2018

Under the plans, which were confirmed earlier this week, the existing Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (the ODCE) will be replaced by a new Corporate Enforcement Authority (CEA).

The ODCE currently operates within the Irish government's Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The new CEA will be an independent commission and gain enhanced powers.

Business minister Heather Humphreys said: "By establishing the ODCE as a stand-alone agency, it will be better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. The new Corporate Enforcement Authority will have more autonomy, particularly in terms of the ability to recruit specialist skills and expertise."

"A solid and stable business environment is central to supporting our enterprise base and preserving our competitiveness. It is also fundamental to ensuring that Ireland retains its excellent reputation as a great place to invest," she said.

Dublin-based white collar crime expert Dermot McGirr of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said strengthening the enforcement regime for 'white collar' crime would underpin the introduction of new anti-corruption laws that came into force in Ireland on 30 July this year. Those reforms introduced a raft of new offences and stiff penalties for businesses that fail to comply.

The CEA will have all the same functions and powers that the ODCE has, but it will gain new powers to "structure itself to meet the differing demands of its remit", the government said. New search and entry powers that the CEA will be given are designed to better enable the body to collect evidence held electronically.

"Traditionally, evidence has been in one or two forms – a physical item, like a document, or testimony from a person who witnessed an event," an explanatory note published alongside the proposed amendments said. "Technological advancements today mean that a great deal of evidence is now in digital format."

"The amendment purports to authorise the [CEA] to access data under the control of an entity or individual, regardless of where they have that data stored and to access it using any means necessary (by which it is meant using any electronic device deemed necessary and at any location deemed necessary) to ensure best compliance with evidence rules and digital forensics principles," it said.