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Borrowing by state bodies

A statutory entity can only operate in accordance with its enabling statute. A considerable amount of activity in Ireland is carried on through statutory entities controlled by the state but operating in the commercial sector. From time to time legislative amendments are required to ensure that the borrowing powers and capital financing requirements of these entities keep pace with commercial developments. The latest piece of such legislation the Borrowing Powers of Certain Bodies Act, 1966 which came into force on August 1 1996. In particular it increased the borrowing limit of ACC Bank plc.

Enduring powers of attorney

The statutory basis for powers of attorney in Ireland dates back to the 1880s. The law has now been updated. A statutory form of general power is now available. Furthermore it is now possible for a person to give another an enduring power of attorney which will continue to exist even if the grantor ceases to have legal capacity, for example because of mental illness or disability. The legislation includes safeguards to prevent abuse. Anyone relying on a power of attorney from an Irish entity should have the document reviewed so as to ensure compliance with the new legislation. The Powers of Attorney Act 1996 came into force on August 1 1996.

Anti-crime legislation

During the summer an investigative journalist was murdered at a busy road intersection in the early afternoon. This led to public outrage and the passing of various pieces of legislation designed to combat crime. The Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 came into force on August 4 1996 and allows applications to be made to the High Court for the freezing of suspected proceeds of organized criminal activity and the disposal of these proceeds in due course. The Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996 which came into force on September 9 1996 gives extra powers of arrest and detention to the Garda (police) and enables customs officers to participate in the questioning of suspects in connection with drug traffic offences.

The Disclosure of Certain Information for Taxation and Other Purposes Act 1996 which came into force on July 30 1996 allows the Garda to obtain information from the Revenue Commissioners and for the retention of documents by designated bodies for use as evidence in relation to any offence (and not just money-laundering as was previously the case).

The government has established a Criminal Assets Bureau with a view to combating organized crime by securing the seizure of the proceeds of such crime. There has already been controversy because of the contemporaneous visit by the Garda and the media to a lawyer's office in what the Law Society described as a "media circus".

The legislative package has an obvious impact on the extent to which client confidentiality may be maintained and also on the degree of privacy which the customer may expect to achieve.

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