At today’s Government meeting, it was agreed to draft a Customs and Excise Mutual Assistance Bill to give legal effect in Ireland to two international Conventions (namely The CIS Convention and The Convention on Mutual Assistance and Co-operation between Customs Administrations (known informally as "The Naples II Convention") and three related instruments prior to this country adopting them at European Union level.
For many years, there has been intensive co-operation between the EU Customs Administrations which allows for a constant flow of intelligence and exchange of information to combat international smuggling, including drugs smuggling. The Conventions and related instruments represent a comprehensive package of measures to enhance the present co-operation arrangements to assist Customs Administrations in preventing serious smuggling, illegal cross-frontier movement of illicit substances and products and generally in improving controls.
The CIS Convention was signed by all Member States on 26 July, 1995. This Convention provides for the establishment of a "Customs Information System", a computerised central database. This allows for rapid dissemination of information and intelligence about illegal movements over internal frontiers and enables effective action to be taken by Customs to combat activity such as drugs smuggling.
The Naples II Convention was signed by all Member States on 18 December, 1997 and updates provisions in an already existing Naples Convention which had been in operation for over thirty years. These provisions allow Customs Administrations to exchange useful information and intelligence. However, the Naples II Convention provides for special forms of co-operation between Customs Administrations which did not previously exist such as hot pursuit, cross-border surveillance, controlled delivery, covert investigations and joint special investigation teams. A number of these provisions are subject to an opt-out clause which may be exercised in certain cases by individual Member States. Ireland is exercising its right to opt out of these provisions. However, the proposed Bill allows for scope to review this opt-out position at a future date.
Minister for Finance, Mr Charlie McCreevy TD, said that the value of international co-operation between Customs Administrations has been well illustrated over the years with a number of the major seizures of drugs by Irish Customs having resulted from information and intelligence received from the Customs Administrations in other Member States.
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