Dublin, 24 March 2010 - 1. Does anyone have to prove that a licence or contract was awarded in return for any payment or gift?
No. Any payment offered or received in order to influence a public official is deemed to be a corrupt act under the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 2010. This includes influencing a public official to give advice, the release of information or the untimely release of information on a public contract or State licence competition. No proof would be needed that any transaction directly secured a state contract or licence for a finding of corruption to be made.
2. Does money have to change hands for a prosecution to take place?
No. Sufficient evidence of an offer of any gift or advantage in an attempt to influence a public official is grounds for prosecution. Offering an advantage for ‘services to be rendered’ or an attempt to pay a ‘kickback’ to a public official for ‘services already rendered’ is also an offence.
3. Does a public official have to benefit directly from a bribe or attempted bribe?
No. It is sufficient that any person is offered a bribe once the purpose of the bribe is to influence the conduct of a public official. A bribe may be any payment or advantage, such as a loan, job offer or insider information. A political party, a business or consultancy may also be regarded as an ‘agent’ under the terms of the Prevention of Corruption Acts.
4. Must a conviction of corruption be secured before the proceeds of a corrupt transaction can be seized?
No. Under the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005 the High Court can order that the proceeds of any crime including corruption be frozen or seized by the State. The order is made after the court has ruled, on the balance of probabilities, that a corrupt transaction led to the enrichment of an individual or organisation.
5. Is witness testimony required to secure a conviction for corruption?
No witness testimony is required under the Prevention of Corruption Acts, to secure a conviction for corruption. A jury simply needs to be convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that corruption has occurred. In some cases financial evidence may be sufficient, in others, witness testimony may be necessary. This is the reason universal ‘whistleblower’ legislation and some form of witness leniency programme are urgently needed.
6. How hard is it to secure a criminal conviction for corruption?
Since 2001, it has been much easier for the authorities to secure a conviction of for corruption than was previously the case. While the burden of proof still rests with the prosecution in corruption cases, a public official may have to show that any hidden payments were not lawfully acquired. If they cannot prove this, the assumption is made that the payment was a corrupt one. Of the eight prosecutions for corruption brought to court since 2003, seven have been successful. It would therefore be wrong to conclude that securing a conviction of corruption is impossible.
7. How corrupt is Ireland?
It is very difficult to say. Ireland is regarded by the international business community as being a relatively clean place to do business. It is currently ranked 14th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). However, the international business community does not seem to have noticed the scale of the problem. According to Transparency’s Global Corruption Barometer, 90 per cent of the Irish public does not believe that the government is doing enough to stop corruption, while 60 per cent believe that levels of corruption in Ireland are rising.
8. What happens next?
The Government has forwarded the final Moriarty Tribunal report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). However the DPP cannot investigate alleged offences. The Gardaí will have to uncover evidence of wrongdoing again with a fresh investigation into the circumstances surrounding the case. This is because evidence and testimony presented at a Tribunal of Inquiry cannot be used to secure a criminal conviction against a witness in the tribunal. It could take over two years to conclude, however it should be noted that once a corruption-related case is brought to court by the DPP it generally has a very good chance of succeeding.