NI Organised crime gangs look to exploit the return of "hard" border
Organised crime activity in Northern Ireland is set to increase post-Brexit, especially if the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) is conducted in a disorderly manner.
That is the warning from the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF), which claims that organized criminal gangs will set out to exploit new tariffs and other Brexit-related trading and border arrangements.
Established in September 2000, the OCTF is Northern Ireland’s primary agency dedicated to the battle against serious and organised crime.
In its annual report the OCTF predicts that a “no-deal scenario” would lead to “potential new criminal markets for previously legitimate commodities”.
Meanwhile a senior official in the Northern Ireland Executive has sounded the alarm by saying: “None of us know on what terms the UK will leave the EU but we do know that wherever there is a border, organised crime will try to exploit it”.
Claire Archbold, who is director of safer communities at the Department of Justice, qualified her statement by adding that the OCTF is an “agile” organisation which can “adapt” to the evolution of organised crime groups.
The warnings by the OCTF and the Northern Ireland Executive come on the heels of multiple reports of escalating organised crime activity in the six counties.
Using data from the OCTF’s annual report, the Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday that there were 7,490 drug seizure incidents in Northern Ireland last year (2018).
Additionally, the OCTF reportedly disrupted 72 criminal gangs, seized £1 million and rescued 59 potential human trafficking victims.
Fears of post-Brexit organised crime activity in Northern Ireland are compounded by security fears, notably renewed confidence and activity by militant Republican factions, which the British media labels as “dissident” Republicans.
The wider context is a political crisis which began in January 2017 following the collapse of the devolved Northern Ireland assembly and executive.
In recent months Brexit fears have intensified the political crisis with Irish Republicans warning of the risks and dangers pursuant to the return of a “hard” border between the Republic of Ireland and the six counties of the north.
In late July, the leader of Sinn Fein, the mainstream Republican group, called for a border poll (or an Irish unity referendum) in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Mary Lou McDonald also called on the Irish government to appoint a minister tasked with preparing for Irish reunification.