Multi-agency taskforce set up in Northern Ireland to protect communities by tackling all forms of criminality linked to paramilitarism

A multi-agency taskforce has been set up in Northern Ireland to protect communities by tackling all forms of criminality linked to paramilitarism.

Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency and HM Revenue & Customs have come together to form the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce.

NCA Director Lynne Owens was at the launch of the taskforce in Belfast yesterday alongside PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, HMRC Director Simon York, Chair of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme Board, Anthony Harbinson, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for NI, Chloe Smith, and Head of Civil Service David Sterling.

Co-locating with colleagues in PSNI and HMRC will allow for a dedicated investigative partnership to tackle all forms of criminality linked to paramilitarism, including extortion, intimidation, violence, drug dealing and money laundering. It also allows for the rapid sharing of intelligence, a combination of powers to deprive criminals more effectively of their assets, access to a range of covert capabilities, and gives the taskforce an international reach.

DG Lynne Owens said: “The NCA and its partners will use every law enforcement tool and power, and intelligence-sharing opportunity available, to disrupt paramilitary-related criminal activity which has such a significant impact on many communities and individuals.

“We will play a full and proactive part in this taskforce on behalf of communities all across Northern Ireland. I am proud of the contribution the NCA has already been able to make to this work, and I look forward to seeing the taskforce go from strength to strength.”

The NCA has deployed investigative and intelligence staff to work in the taskforce, who have access to the NCA’s full range of capabilities and international network, as well specialists who are skilled and experienced in the civil recovery of assets and the taxation of criminal profits.

Prior to the formal launch of the taskforce, the NCA and HMRC supported PSNI investigations into paramilitary crime. During 2016/17 there have been just under 100 arrests with 66 people being charged or reported to the Public Prosecution Service. Around £450,000 worth of criminal assets have been seized or restrained. A number of guns, ammunition and pipe bombs have also been seized.