The National Crime Agency (NCA) must be allowed to target the assets of local criminals, Ulster Unionist MLA and justice spokesman Tom Elliott has said.
He called for NCA to be given the powers to operate in Northern Ireland to the same extent as it does in the rest of the UK so that it can target criminal assets.
“Why should Northern Ireland be permitted to be a criminals’ paradise, which allows those involved in major crime schemes, both locally and internationally, the freedom of not having the full powers of law enforcement implemented here?,” he said after meeting NCA representatives at Stormont. He said that criminal gangs based in Great Britain who have assets abroad can have those assets targeted by the NCA.
“Criminal gangs based in Northern Ireland with assets outside the UK will find that their assets are safe,” he added. “This is simply unacceptable and exposes the absurdity of the position adopted by the SDLP and Sinn Fein which risks turning Northern Ireland into a safe haven for criminal gangs to ply their trade and use the Province as a base to conduct criminal activities on the UK mainland.”
He said the NCA’s website describes it as ‘a new crime-fighting agency with both national and international reach’ with the ‘powers to work in partnership with other law enforcement organisations to bring the full weight of the law to bear in cutting serious and organised crime’.
He said that should add “except in Northern Ireland” which is “more vulnerable to serious and organised criminal gangs who engage in activities such as people trafficking, drugs, cyber crime and child exploitation”.