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Saturday 19 August 2017

Garda fraud squad will be called to investigate Templemore 'slush fund'

One account at centre of controversy used senior garda's home address

The Garda college in Templemore, Co Tipperary. Photo: Damien Eagers
The Garda college in Templemore, Co Tipperary. Photo: Damien Eagers
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Garda fraud squad will be called in to investigate the notorious Templemore 'slush fund' after it emerged one of the college's bank accounts was assigned to the home address of a former senior officer.

The Irish Independent has learned that serious suspected financial fraud, which potentially runs into six figures, has been uncovered by auditors.

The discovery of fraudulent activity was confirmed in an email to the Public Accounts Committee last night from the head of Garda audit, Niall Kelly.

It is suspected that large sums of EU funds intended for law enforcement were instead used for flights and entertainment for gardaí.

The probe has found that one of the bank accounts in question belonged to a senior officer in the force who has since retired.

The shocking revelations are expected to be detailed by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan when she appears before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today.

Commissioner O’Sullivan is to appear at the PAC today. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Commissioner O’Sullivan is to appear at the PAC today. Photo: Gerry Mooney

At a meeting in Garda Headquarters last Friday, Mr Kelly is understood to have stated there was "prima facie evidence" of fraud running into six figures.

In the email to the PAC, seen by this newspaper, Mr Kelly says he has forwarded a draft report to the Garda Commissioner, and the Deputy Commissioner for Policing and Security after receiving legal advice from the head of legal affairs, Ken Ruane.

"I should also inform you that I have forwarded the draft report to Deputy Commissioner for Policing and Security having taken legal advice from Mr Ruane and considering my obligations as an auditor to report any suspicion that fraudulent activity may have occurred, to An Garda Síochána as set out in section 59 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences Act) 2001."

In the meeting, Mr Kelly is also understood to have recommended that Ms O'Sullivan refer the findings to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) and Garda watchdog GSOC.

According to sources, the senior civilian also recommended that Ms O'Sullivan formally notifies Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in the form of a section 41 report.

Under the An Garda Síochána Act, the Commissioner is obliged to submit such a report if "significant developments" arise "that might reasonably be expected to affect adversely public confidence in An Garda Síochána".

The probe itself centres upon the transfer of large funds to a number of banks and credit union accounts.

But the revelation that a senior officer is suspected of linking a bank account to his personal home address will cause deep concern.

The Commissioner is also set to come under rigorous questions after she was contradicted by civilian officers over when she first knew of the scale of the issues at Templemore.

Ms O'Sullivan previously told the committee she only learned of the situation on July 27, 2015. However, Garda HR director John Barrett and Mr Ruane claimed she had, in fact, been informed at least one month earlier. And Cyril Dunne, the former chief administrative officer at An Garda Síochána, told the PAC last week that Ms O'Sullivan was informed about issues in the first week of July, 2015.

"Roundabout the first week of July, I told her John Barrett had identified issues in Templemore, that I needed to get more information. I told her I would be going down to Templemore myself and that I would brief her when I had more detail," Mr Dunne said.

Today's questioning will be led by Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry and Labour TD Alan Kelly, who have been to the fore of the criticism of Garda management.

Irish Independent

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