Gardai want bankers prosecuted
Finance elite must be held accountable for 'fraud and greed'
THE man who leads middle-ranking gardai last night called for prosecutions against the banking elite.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) believes some banking behaviour in the past few years amounted to fraud, and brought the country "almost to its knees".
And if there legal loopholes in the current legislation, the law should be overhauled, they say.
The charge was led last night by AGSI president Paschal Feeney, who said there was an apparent weakness in dealing with white collar crime.
He told his association's annual conference in Athlone that he wanted the Government to take all possible steps to hold those responsible for the demolition of the country's financial reputation to account.
He demanded that the action include initiating criminal prosecutions, taking people before the courts and making them face the full rigour of the law.
"If we find that our current legislation is not strong enough," Mr Feeney said, "then the Government should consult with the Garda Fraud Bureau and the Criminal Assets Bureau to ensure that any new laws are effective and that they act to cure this cancer in our financial affairs".
Mr Feeney also called for the asset-stripping powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau to be used to the full to recoup all of the monies that had been "squirrelled away" by members of the so-called Golden Circle.
"Never again must the actions of a few be allowed to bring a country to its knees," he told conference delegates.
He argued that the country was now almost bankrupt because of greed, which had led the banks to lend so much money that they stood "not a chance in hell" of getting it back.
"Greed led them to continue doing it even though they must have known it was unsustainable in the long term.
"Greed also fed into our corporate governance. Bank directors and executives paying themselves huge, unrealistic salaries -- and adding huge bonuses on top to reward themselves for their appalling lending policies.
"They lent unlimited sums to themselves, bankrupting their own banks and creating the collapse in confidence in our financial institutions", Mr Feeney added.
"Greed alone may not have done the trick without serious failures on the other side", he said. "The side that should have been in control -- our financial regulators and our Central Bank -- should not have allowed this to happen".
He warned his colleagues:
- The recruitment embargo would drastically reduce the numbers available for policing.
- The embargo on promotions would devastate supervision levels and leave younger gardai leaderless.
- There would be fewer gardai to deal with public order or to respond to emergencies.
- Cutbacks would result in gardai fighting criminals with one hand tied behind their backs, and the safety of the public and gardai must not be compromised.
Mr Feeney also called on Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to explain why they could not get an explanation for the Government's refusal to allow the gardai to be affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
He pointed out that two requests under the Freedom of Information Act had already been refused and a third was now being prepared. "What is the secrecy all about?" he asked.