The Criminal Assets Bureau returned over €5 million of crime cash to the State last year, according to its annual report released today.

This includes €4.2 million under Proceeds of Crime legislation and €1.1 million returned to the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform by utilising, for the first time, part of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.

The money seized was the proceeds of organised crime, money laundering, tax evasion and social welfare theft.

The bureau also returned a further €5.5 million to the Nigerian government, part of over $700 million which was stolen by the former head of state, General Sani Abacha.

The remit of the Criminal Assets Bureau is to investigate any criminal conduct which involves the acquisition of wealth.

Cash and (below) cars were among the assets recovered by CAB

Along with organised crime groups, it also targeted tax evaders, social welfare fraudsters, a struck-off doctor and the laundered assets of the former Nigerian military head of state Gen Abacha, who died in 1998.

General Abacha's son, Mohammed Sani Abacha, helped to launder throughout the world over $700 million (€592 million) his father stole from Nigeria’s public funds.

CAB discovered $6.5 million (€5.5 million) in a financial institution here and returned it to Nigeria last October.

It also returned another €5.2 million criminal cash to State funds here.

CAB also became the first law enforcement agency in the world to seize suspected criminal assets in the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

While it took possession of another €53 million in Bitcoin, it does not have the codes to realise those assets.

CAB arranged for online auctions where Bitcoin, watches, jewellery, designer clothes, footwear and handbags, as well as high end cars, luggage, a drone, boat engine and a small Gyro aircraft were sold.

An image from CAB's annual report
Designer label shoes were among the items impounded by CAB

Sixty-seven warrants were issued targeting organised crime gangs in 2020 while 31 Proceeds of Crime applications were made to the courts - the majority relating to drug trafficking.

Two properties, two plots of land, four cars, a motorbike, Rolex, Breitling and Cartier watches, a diamond ring and over €16,000 in cash was all seized from one member of the Kinahan organised crime group.

There were 45 individuals and corporate entities assessed as owing over €10 million in tax; 26 were served with demands for over €8.7 million, while €2.1 million was recovered in total from 64 individuals and businesses. Ten settled for over €1.7 million.

A Gyro aircraft was also seized by CAB

Almost €250,000 was also seized as part of an investigation into a doctor who had been struck off the medical register in the United States but was found to be treating cancer patients in Ennis in Co Clare.

The CAB report also acknowledges the "24 hour support given by the Customs Dog Units throughout the year in 21 separate large search operations" throughout the country.

Bill is one of the four-legged members of the Customs Dog Units used in search operations

The Government said today it intends to establish a Community Safety Innovation Fund which will allow for some of the money and assets seized by CAB to be invested in community safety projects.

The Chief Bureau Officer of CAB said the most unusual item seized by officers last year was a gyroplane.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gubbins told RTÉ's News at One that there are multiple brands of name of cryptocurrency and seizures of ethereum were also made.

He said the main purpose of CAB is to deny and deprive criminals of assets that they have acquired illegally.

He added that the return of €5m to the State is quite a good result.

"Did we get everything back that criminals are engaged with? No...but we have to do it and our objective is to deny and deprive."