The Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) is having problems trying to sell the expensive assets it has seized from criminals as a result of the downturn in the economy.
Items such as bulletproof cars and upmarket houses are not selling well at garda auctions or through estate agents, or are going for far less then their actual worth.
Cab's 2008 annual report is with justice minister Dermot Ahern and is due to be published within weeks.
While the value of the items seized and court appearances in relation to assets seized by the bureau are in line with 2007, it is understood that the amount of money raised from sales of seized items is significantly less.
A BMW 3 series and X5 SUV are among the cars that Cab has been unable to sell and they remain in garda storage. "We were as busy as ever last year and this year to date also," said a Cab source.
"But the recession is hitting the sales hard. There's nothing we can do about it. The proceeds of crime are still being seized. But there certainly are bargains to be had, especially if you're in the market for a bullet-proof car."
The bureau seized almost €10m in assets from criminals in 2007. In addition to asset seizure, it made a €19m tax demand in 2007 and collected €10m which was handed to the state. A further €551,000 was made in social-welfare savings.
The Sunday Tribune revealed in May that Cab had launched an unprecedented investigation into a group of solicitors, accountants and mortgage brokers.
The bureau is probing 'white-collar' involvement in criminality and believes that the group of rogue professionals has been deliberately helping criminals hide their assets and buy property from the proceeds of crime.
"In the course of our investigations into criminals, the same names of solicitors, accountants and mortgage brokers kept coming up as assisting them – helping them wash their money essentially," said a senior garda source.
"Some professionals have been doing it unwittingly but a small group of them knew exactly what they were doing. We are targeting them at the moment in a new investigation."
In a separate investigation, the bureau is preparing to seize the assets of up to 20 Irish criminals living in the so-called 'Costa del Crime' area of Spain.
Cab has been liaising with the Spanish authorities and is preparing to seize several properties, luxury cars and even a yacht.
In 2007, Cab began to target middle-ranking criminals along with multi-millionaire crime bosses.
The bureau has more than 110 profilers, including some Revenue and Customs officials, studying the assets of criminals around the country.
The profilers supply information to the bureau's head office in Dublin with a view to beginning High Court proceedings to confiscate assets.
Established in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, Cab has successfully confiscated the assets of many of the country's most powerful criminals.