Irish solicitors set to challenge threat to client confidentiality

Dublin solicitors are threatening to judicially review the Irish Minister of Justice, John O'Donoghue, for his “draconian” proposals that would force solicitors to report their clients for suspected criminal activity.

The incoming chair of the Dublin Solicitors' Bar Association, Hugh O'Neill, said that unless the Irish Minister of Justice's proposal to extend the law against money laundering to lawyers is amended, the association will challenge the move in the courts on constitutional grounds.

The proposed legislation, an extension to existing legislation on money laundering, will require solicitors to report to the Garda any suspicious financial transactions by clients.

They would also be legally obliged to report any “other criminal activity” by clients of which they became aware.

The original money laundering laws, which imposed a reporting requirement on financial institutions, were introduced as part of a crackdown on organised crime after the murder of Dublin journalist Veronica Guerin.

But when the head of the Garda Fraud Bureau said that crime bosses were hiring the services of professionals to launder money, Irish Minister of Justice was prompted to extend the requirements to solicitors, accountants and estate agents.

O'Neill said his members were worried about the “draconian requirement, which strikes at the heart of the solicitor-client relationship”.

See City, page 15.