SIPTU has called on the Government to launch publicity and enforcement campaigns aimed at tackling white-collar crime which is estimated to have cost the economy more than €2 billion last year.
White-collar crime refers to financially motivated non-violent crime committed by business and government professionals. The cost to the Irish economy of such activity has been massive in recent years with it playing a direct role in the €64 billion bailout of the banking sector.
SIPTU Campaigns and Equality National Organiser, Karen O Loughlin, said: “The State needs to run a campaign against white-collar crime to save real money in the economy. There is a need for the Government to acknowledge the cost and extent of white collar crime and to deal with the issue with the same enthusiasm as it has shown in targeting social welfare fraud.
“An effective anti-white collar crime campaign must include billboards on buses and media advertisements aimed at encouraging the reporting of the activity. There is also a need to put in place a type of white-collar Criminal Assets Bureau and to reform the inept Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement to ensure that this form of crime is properly pursued and prosecuted.”
O’ Loughlin added: “The Government’s failure to seriously tackle white-collar crime is in stark contrast to the targeting of welfare fraud by the Department of Social Protection with a campaign that includes the slogan ‘welfare cheats cheat us all’.
“To back up this campaign the Government has attempted to link all social welfare overpayments to criminal activity. In reality this is not the case with a 2013 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General indicating that between 2007 and 2011, 50% of all social welfare overpayments were due to error, while 38% of overpayments were due to fraud. The real cost of welfare fraud is between €25 and €41 million within a Social Protection budget of €19 billion.
“While incidents of social welfare fraud, where they occur, should be dealt with, the reality is that the current Government campaign seeks to feed into the narrative that people supported by Social Protection are spongers and criminals. This is a deliberate strategy to undermine the Social Protection system while targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
“If the Government was truly concerned with the rule of law and stamping out criminal activity, which costs our society dearly, it would launch the type of anti-white-collar crime campaign our members are calling for. If it fails to do so then its true objectives are surely obvious.”