31/01/2006

Criminal assets of £12m targeted in NI

Around £12 million in criminal assets have been targeted and 28 criminal gangs have been disrupted in Northern Ireland last year by agencies working to thwart organised crime.

Security Minister and Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force, Shaun Woodward, made the announcement at the launch of launch of PWC Global Economic Crime Survey in Belfast.

Speaking to representatives of the business community in Northern Ireland, Mr Woodward said: "I believe the business community have a vital role to play. I am delighted that the Confederation of British Industry, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses have joined the Task Force. I am confident that their contribution will significantly add to our collective response.

"Only by working in partnership with law enforcement and harnessing public awareness and support can we change perceptions, drive down tolerance of criminals and rid our community of the economic and human cost of organised crime."

Outlining how the efforts of the Government and law enforcement agencies were impacting on organised criminal gangs, he said: "The Task Force has made good progress in crucial areas. During 2004/05 28 top level criminal gangs were disrupted or dismantled; criminal assets totalling almost £12 million were collectively restrained or confiscated by the Assets Recovery Agency, police and Revenue & Customs; £7 million of counterfeit goods were seized in 2004/05 by PSNI and legitimate fuel deliveries increased by 6%."

However, the Minister said that more needed to be done: "While these achievements are extremely encouraging, there is more to be done by all of us. Not just by the law enforcement agencies and government but by industry, by the public and their political representatives.

"There are no quick fixes. Organised crime is complex and embedded in communities. Criminals show a blatant disregard for public safety and often prey on the most vulnerable in our society. Their only concern is to make money and it is in all our interests to prevent that happening."

(SP)

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