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WriteSide: Willie McGee on life in the Fraud Squad, interviewing Haughey and a foot-and-mouth ransom

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Willie McGee, author of 'Tales from the Fraud Squad’

Willie McGee, author of 'Tales from the Fraud Squad’

‘Tales from the Fraud Squad’ by Willie McGee and published by Merrion Press

‘Tales from the Fraud Squad’ by Willie McGee and published by Merrion Press

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Willie McGee, author of 'Tales from the Fraud Squad’

What inspired you to write your memoir, Tales from the Fraud Squad? I have been hounded by people for years to tell my story. I spent most of my garda career investigating fraud, and 10 years investigating it for an insurance company. It was really a question of luck that I ended up in fraud. I suppose I couldn’t have been an undercover agent in the drug squad because I had red curly hair and stood out like a sore thumb.

What was the biggest case you dealt with?
In late August of 1979, a letter landed on the desk of the private secretary of the Department of Agriculture. The anonymous writer demanded a ransom of £5m or he and his co-conspirators would unleash the foot-and-mouth virus. We kept a tight lid on it. In the end, no one was prosecuted. We were way behind the times in terms of the law at the time. Our legislation was antiquated and we were operating under 1913 and 1916 legislation.

Is it true that one fraudster in another case tried to eat the evidence?
A Nigerian fraudster by the name of Christian Obumneme decided to do exactly that when he and a few of his associates were intercepted by members of the Fraud Squad on College Green. They had a forged bank draft for €56.5m and they were trying to lodge it.

You questioned the former Taoiseach Charles Haughey on foot of findings arising from the McCracken Tribunal into payments to politicians.
I met him and his legal team at his home in Kinsealy. I can recall Charlie himself pouring cups of coffee for us from his silver coffee pot and drinking from beautiful china mugs. He was fortunate not to be prosecuted.

Did you find your vocation in the Fraud Squad?
Yes. Originally, I wanted to join the Army, but I failed the medical because I had dentures. I always thought a degree in common sense was the best degree one could have in the gardaí.

Why were you known as Willie ‘Four Goals’ McGee?
I played for Mayo at football. In 1967, I scored four goals for Mayo in an under-21 final against Kerry. And that name has stuck with me all my life.

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‘Tales from the Fraud Squad’ by Willie McGee and published by Merrion Press

‘Tales from the Fraud Squad’ by Willie McGee and published by Merrion Press

‘Tales from the Fraud Squad’ by Willie McGee and published by Merrion Press

‘Tales from the Fraud Squad’ is published by Merrion Press. Proceeds go to the Irish Heart Foundation

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