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Sunday 26 March 2017

DPP's foreign jaunts cost the State €40,000

Expense claims also reveal the taxpayer picked up the bill for a €700 dinner at National Yacht Club

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Daniel McConnell, Chief Reporter

THE Director of Public Prosecutions James Hamilton -- who announced his intention to step down in November in the aftermath of the Government's proposed cut to State pensions -- has jet-setted all around the world at the taxpayer's expense, according to new figures obtained by the Sunday Independent.

Since January 2008, the taxpayer has footed a bill of more than €40,000 for business-class flights and luxury hotels during 38 foreign trips taken by Mr Hamilton, as well as his wining and dining in some of Dublin's finest hostelries.

According to the documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, he travelled to destinations including South Africa, Singapore, Brazil, Prague, Madrid, Venice, Dubai, Cameroon and Vienna.

Mr Hamilton's expenses reveal that despite statements from the DPP that his office was "fully stretched", he has engaged in a significant number of foreign expeditions.

Also, despite the first garda file on Anglo Irish Bank arriving into his office last December, so far this year Mr Hamilton has travelled on official business to conferences and meetings in Scotland, Holland, Vienna, Venice, Minnesota and Seoul in Korea.

In late June, Mr Hamilton travelled business class to Seoul for a World Summit of Attorneys at a cost of €3,715, including his subsistence, which was partially refunded by the Korean organisers.

In April, Mr Hamilton attended a conference on the 'cross-national study of prosecutors' at the University of Minnesota at a total cost of €4,225. Included in this were business flights via New York, as well as €10 for his visa application.

A trip to Vienna in March for a committee meeting of the International Association of Prosecutors cost the taxpayer €1,086, including his stay at the Falkensteiner Hotel Am Schottenfeld in the city centre.

Last December, Mr Hamilton travelled with his wife for a conference of lawyers in the romantic city of Venice at a cost of €1,506 to the taxpayer. The office of the DPP said that Mr Hamilton subsequently refunded the office for his wife's flights. The office also refused to disclose on security grounds the hotel they stayed in at a cost of €688.

Last November, Mr Hamilton travelled business class to Macau, China, at a cost of €4,304 for a four-day trip.

Two weeks prior to that, Mr Hamilton was again in Venice for a conference of lawyers at a cost of €1,084. Again, the name of the hotel where he stayed at a cost of €320 a night was withheld.

In September 2010, Mr Hamilton's attendance at a seven-day conference in The Hague cost the taxpayer €2,649, including his €1,500 residence at the five-star Steigenburger Kurhaus Hotel.

On several trips to Italy and Spain, Mr Hamilton travelled Ryanair, but would ensure that he got priority boarding, as well as extra baggage. On one such trip to Venice, even though he travelled with Michael O'Leary's budget airline, it still cost the taxpayer €1,546 including hotel costs.

In April of 2010, Mr Hamilton was significantly inconvenienced on his way home from a UN conference on crime prevention in Salvador, Brazil. The original trip -- including his business-class flights and his luxury hotel cost of €4,008 -- was thrown into chaos by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud. This amount was partially covered by organisers. As a result, Mr Hamilton was forced to hire a car and drive from Lisbon to Cherbourg to catch the ferry to Rosslare. This detour cost €3,158 but refunds from the insurance company and airlines offset most of this amount.

Mr Hamilton's taste for fine dining is also revealed. He claimed €700, including a €70 tip, for a business dinner in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

The food on the night cost €360, with the rest being spent on alcohol, including pints of Guinness, two bottles of Chablis Morea, two bottles of Chateau Teyssier (at €114), brandies and gin and tonics.

During a €144 business lunch in Bang Cafe, on Merrion Row, Mr Hamilton and his guest quenched their thirsts with a cheeky €29 Pinot Grigio.

At a separate €95 business lunch in Peploes on St Stephen's Green, Mr Hamilton and his guest again washed down their fine food with some white Pinot. According to the receipt, the pair enjoyed a bottle and then a further two glasses.

When he announced his intention to step down, Mr Hamilton said he had intended to spend 10 years in the job and that this had stretched to 12. In a recent interview, he refused to deny that the changing of the pension rules was a factor in his decision to retire.

However, these "harsh realities" of the new pension regime forced him to take stock, he said, and he felt this was a good time to go.

Sunday Independent

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