Lawyer heads Irish gang-busting team

A FLAMBOYANT Irish solicitor has been given the task of ridding the country of its increasingly powerful criminal bosses and drug barons.

Crusading solicitor Barry Galvin has been given a new title – the Elliot Ness of the Irish Republic.

Like the legendary and incorruptible American gang-buster, the 52-year-old Chief State Solicitor for Cork now has the task of putting the country's top criminals out of business.

He has been named as head of a new Irish Criminal Assets Bureau, made up of a hand-picked team of detectives and tax officials.

Their job will be to trace the illegally amassed fortunes of gang leaders so that they can be seized through the courts.

The new bureau is one of a series of anti-crime measures announced by the Irish government in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, allegedly on the orders of Dublin crime bosses she was investigating.

Other measures which have been introduced include restrictions on bail and the right to silence, plus legislation obliging solicitors and accountants to report “suspicious” transactions or face prosecution.

But it is the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau, and the appointment of Galvin as its legal chief, that has caught the Irish public's imagination.

He is seen as the ideal choice, someone whose energy and commitment will make the bureau a formidable force.

For years Galvin has been a thorn in the side of successive Irish governments, speaking out on the worsening drugs crisis in the country.

Cork was in danger of becoming the drugs smuggling capital of Europe, he warned, because of its largely unprotected coastline.

He publicly criticised the Irish Customs Service for that failure and the Revenue Commissioners for failing to take action against suspected drug dealers.

Galvin originally qualified as a barrister but switched to become a solicitor and work for the long-established family firm in Cork. In 1992 he became State Solicitor for Cork, a job previously held by both his father and grandfather.

Galvin's new job carries considerable personal risk. In recognition of that fact, bureau detectives will be armed and other members will be able to give evidence in court from behind screens and without using their names on documents.

Attempted intimidation of bureau staff will carry a penalty of three years jail and a £10,000 fine.