Jim Nicholson MEP has slammed Sinn Fein and the SDLP during a European Parliament debate on criminal assets for blocking the National Crime Agency (NCA) from becoming fully operational in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Unionist MEP expressed his frustration at the Nationalist parties' decision during a debate on freezing and confiscating the proceeds of crime. The EU plans to introduce new measures that would require all 28 member states to have a minimum level of powers and tools available in order to promote more effective cross-border co-operation.
Mr Nicholson said: "It is to my disappointment and dismay that two of the governing parties in Northern Ireland saw fit to block the National Crime Agency from becoming fully operational in Northern Ireland.
"The NCA itself has a dedicated Proceeds of Crime Centre operating in the UK, though it is now operationally diminished in my own constituency."
"I cannot believe there is any logical reason to block the NCA from becoming fully operational in Northern Ireland.
"Senior officers in the PSNI have called for the ability to utilise the NCA's powers and expertise in the fight against dissident republicans, mounting civil actions and seizing their assets.
"Instead, Sinn Fein and the SDLP have taken it upon themselves to create a dangerous vacuum in Northern Ireland which lies beyond the NCA's reach.
"The outcome of the vote in Parliament demonstrates that both parties are totally out of step with the EU push to devote more resources to tackling cross-border serious and organised crime."
MEPs voted overwhelmingly (631 for and 19 against) in favour of the new measures to improve international co-operation on asset recovery. Currently only 1% of criminals ill-gotten gains are confiscated across Europe, with the money often reinvested in organised crime. Without the NCA, there are fears that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) will miss vital operational assistance to tackle organised crime gangs.