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Tuesday 16 July 2019

Gardaí have only just begun to record cases of insurance fraud

Figures: Garda Deputy Commissioner John Twomey appeared before the Oireachtas Finance Committee yesterday. Picture: Collins
Figures: Garda Deputy Commissioner John Twomey appeared before the Oireachtas Finance Committee yesterday. Picture: Collins
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

A top garda has revealed that the force has only recently started to record instances of insurance fraud on its systems.

But the force is determined to tackle the crime, Deputy Commissioner John Twomey told the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

More resources are to be put into the fight against claims fraudsters.

However, Mr Twomey admitted that the force started recording the crime of "insurance fraud" on the Pulse computer system only last October.

"This will enable An Garda Síochána to monitor trends in the area of economic crime and plan an appropriate response," he said.

Figures on the extent of insurance fraud convictions are scarce, with the committee being told by Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty last week that insurance companies are exaggerating the extent of dodgy claims to justify hiking premiums.

Yesterday Mr Twomey told the committee that the force is investigating 50 insurance fraud cases reported to it mostly by insurers since last October.

This coincides with the Pulse system being updated to record insurance fraud.

He said it was "not the biggest volume of crime" that gardaí are dealing with.

However, the head of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan, told the committee that insurance fraud was unreported, saying: "Fraud is the most under-reported crime in the world."

He told Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath that this was because there is such a high threshold of proof needed to convict someone of fraud.

Mr McGrath said this could explain why so few claims are made by insurers who last week insisted that up to 20pc of claims are false or exaggerated.

Asked if there was information on numbers convicted of insurance fraud, gardaí said they would write to the committee with details.

Mr McGrath: "It is proving very difficult to get any data on convictions for insurance fraud."

Mr Doherty said insurers were exaggerating the extent of false and exaggerated claims to justify charging higher premiums.

But equally, he said, they are not reporting cases where they have strong suspicions, despite it being a requirement under 2011 legislation.

This means that insurers are committing a crime under Section 19 of the 2011 Criminal Justice Act, he said.

"I don't believe fraud and exaggerated cases represent 20pc of claims. Also, I don't believe it is as low as 50 cases," Mr Doherty said.

He said insurers were known to argue that there is no point in bringing cases to gardaí as they do not have the resources to investigate them.

But more clarity on the extent of the insurance fraud is likely to emerge.

This is because each Garda division has been told to provide information on the extent of the crime in its area.

This information is being examined at the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and will be used to assess if more raids on fraud rings are needed.

"For our part, An Garda Síochána is focused on identifying anyone involved in the making of bogus insurance claims and to maximise the potential to initiate prosecutions," Mr Twomey said.

Irish Independent

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