BANK bosses have hired a disgraced former garda detective to snoop on the lives of its debtors, the Irish Independent has learned.
ACC Bank is using a private investigator who works for an agency which boasts of its use of ex-gardai. But the International Bureau of Intelligence (IBI) has among its recruits former garda detective sergeant John White.
He was dismissed from the force in 2006 after he was strongly criticised by the Morris Tribunal investigating inappropriate behaviour by gardai in the Donegal Division.
The Nally report into allegations he had made concerning the Omagh bombing and subsequent police investigations also heavily criticised him.
Mr White was accused of planting a shotgun at a Travellers' site to justify the arrests of several people living there.
He was also accused at the Morris Tribunal of harassment of the McBrearty family in Raphoe and trying to link two of them and a friend to the death of a local cattle dealer Richie Barron.
Subsequent investigations found Mr Barron had not been murdered.
Mr White was cleared at two criminal trials and has described the tribunal reports as "perverse".
However, his appearance in several investigations in Co Donegal in recent weeks has upset several people being pursued by the bank.
"He appeared in my farmyard and I went over to see who he was and what he wanted," said one man involved in a legal dispute with ACC Bank.
"I recognised him straight away and I told him what he could do. We are under enough stress with the banks without former gardai who have been kicked out of the force being used by them," said the elderly farmer.
At least three other farming families in Donegal have also been approached by Mr White who said he was acting on behalf of an agency hired by ACC Bank.
In these cases Mr White said he wanted to confirm who resided at family homes.
The former garda specialises in so-called 'lifestyle reports' and undercover surveillance for a range of clients. His reports involve days of close surveillance of bank debtors who claim they cannot afford to pay loans.
"His (White's) job was to see if I was driving a Mercedes or living beyond my means and he spent days outside my home," said one man in dispute with the bank over a mortgage.
"I saw him on day one and recognised him and his car but it was a wild goose chase. I'm broke. I don't understand how a bank would hire someone who was expelled from the guards."
Mr White has also been used to serve summonses from banks on mortgage defaulters.
All work carried out by IBI is perfectly legal. The company, which has offices in Naas, Co Kildare, and in London, pitches to potential clients by boasting of employing experts from several areas "including the police, military, legal, corporate and finance sectors".
The collapse of the economy and the growing mortgage debt has sparked a whole new industry in intelligence gathering, with many former gardai working as private investigators for financial institutions.
IBI is one of the biggest and most reputable organisations used by the banks, assuring its customers that only legal means are used to compile reports which, it says, "will stand the test of court".
When the Irish Independent called to Mr White's home in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, yesterday a man banged on the window of an upstairs bedroom and asked us to leave the property. Later in the day a woman who said she was his daughter insisted: "Dad's not at home now. I will pass on the message."
A spokesman for IBI told the Irish Independent he was not in a position to respond further last night.
A spokeswoman for ACC Bank said she was not in a position to respond to the allegations.
By Greg Harkin