Sunday 22 April 2018

Army probes claim soldiers moonlighted in Seychelles


A REPORT on allegations that a small number of serving Irish soldiers worked, while on leave, for private security firms on lucrative contracts in the Seychelles will land on the desk of Defence Minister Tony Killeen shortly.

Among the more extraordinary claims is that the soldiers were involved in buying arms on the black market in South Africa for a group in the Seychelles.

Irish security firms had a presence in the country, which is made up of about 90 islands in the Indian Ocean, at a time when it was trying to deal with an increasing security threat from Somali pirates.

Now, however the US, which has based unmanned drones in the country, and other nations have stepped in to help the Seychelles. As a result, the involvement of Irish security firms appears to be at an end.

The claims about the Irish soldiers were first highlighted in June by the Sunday Independent, which also revealed that an internal army investigation was under way.

Tight secrecy has surrounded the investigation by military police, which is also believed to have been aided by officers from G-2 military intelligence and the legal branch.

It is concerned only with a small number of soldiers, one of them an NCO, who may have worked for private security firms while on leave of absence. No army officers are involved.

It is not concerned with the activities of the firms themselves, some of whom are run by or employ former Defence Forces personnel.

So far, however, it appears there has been no involvement by outside agencies such as the gardai, the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Revenue Commissioners, although that may change once the investigation has been completed.

On Thursday, Mr Killeen revealed in the Dail that the investigation had been going on since at least March 24 last. "I expect to receive a full report on this investigation shortly," he said. He also disclosed that the investigation began after information had been received from MEP Joe Higgins in March.

"To ensure that the outcome of the investigation or any follow-up action that may arise as a result of it are not prejudiced in any way, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further at this point," the minister said.

He was responding to questions from Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and Sinn Fein deputy Martin Ferris.

The Defence Forces have said that if it is deemed that a member is engaged in off-duty employment "which is likely to prove detrimental to the best interests of the service, measures may be taken to terminate or limit the scope of such employment".

Soldiers may, at the Army's discretion, be granted a career break or special leave without pay for "domestic responsibilities, further education, or travel abroad".

It is unclear what, if any, disciplinary action would be taken if the investigation finds a case against serving soldiers, but the Director of Military Prosecutions would make the final decision as to whether a case would be prosecuted before a court-martial.

Sunday Independent

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