| 19°C Dublin

Gardai only called in exceptional cases

THERE appears to be strong evidence of wrongdoing at Bloxham, including a failure to meet the legal requirements set down for stockbrokers that manage other people's money, so why did nobody call the gardai?

Dr Joe McGrath, who lectures in white collar crime at NUI Galway, says the Central Bank has a stated policy of only pursuing criminal prosecutions as a last resort.

The policy is set down in a document called the Central Bank Enforcement Policy 2011-2012, which was published last year. It says the regulator will only pursue a case through the criminal courts in really "exceptional circumstances".

The preferred policy is to focus instead on administrative sanctions, such as fines or the kind of intrusive action taken at Bloxham over the weekend.

This means cases of suspected wrongdoing are investigated by the financial regulator, and by the director of corporate enforcement first.

The gardai are only called in at the end of an investigation, and only in rare cases.

It's in marked contrast to the situation in the US. There the "perp-walk" -- when a handcuffed suspect is escorted from their office by police -- is often the first sign that an investigation is under way.

The contrasting Irish policy is sure to frustrate many, who have seen myriad wrongdoings in the financial sector go unpunished for years.


However, Dr McGrath said that type of view missed the fact the regulator was getting tougher, including taking the decision to shut Bloxham.

"This would never have happened in the past.

"There is a move to a more intrusive approach.

"The regulator is moving away from the old deference to the financial institutions," Dr McGrath told the Irish Independent.

It is worth noting, too, that the Central Bank has to step lightly in the early stages of an investigation, to avoid blocking itself from taking a later prosecution.

Under Irish law, a criminal prosecution over suspected white collar crime cannot be brought in a case where the regulator has already imposed a fine, and the regulator cannot impose a fine in a case where a criminal prosecution has failed.

Irish Independent