Friday 23 August 2019

'Chatter' on phones involving gardaí and criminals formed part of investigation

Claims that garda was paid around €20,000 amid allegations of leaks about Criminal Assets Bureau

Consulted: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Consulted: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

Tom Brady and Ken Foy

Three Garda officers were arrested after communications with members of an organised crime gang were picked up by phone tapping.

The arrests of a superintendent, inspector and detective garda on the same day are unprecedented. The superintendent and detective were still in custody last night after being arrested yesterday in an anti-corruption probe. The inspector was released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The inspector was immediately placed on suspension.

The superintendent was held on suspicion of “directly leaking” key information to a criminal gang about a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) investigation into its activities.

Investigating officers intercepted telephone calls as part of the probe, which resulted in the arrests of the three gardaí. Officers placed covert surveillance on the criminal suspects, and also intercepted calls and examined phone records of devices used by the criminals. More arrests are expected to be made, with a number of civilians likely to be detained shortly. The next round-up of suspects may also include further Garda arrests

Senior sources told the Irish Independent that yesterday's arrests would open up a new phase in their investigation. "This is not over by a long way. There is a lot more work to do and a lot more detail to emerge and be examined."

Investigators believe the arrests will result in fresh lines of inquiry being pursued. In the follow-up phase, gardaí "will be looking down different avenues", one officer said.

The payment of cash is believed to be central to many of the allegations of corruption. Specialist Garda units are understood to have picked up "chatter" on bugged mobile devices between serious criminals and gardaí.

The gang is understood to have taken advantage of "turbulence" in the senior officer's personal life which led to him allegedly providing it with information about a CAB probe for personal gain.

The anti-corruption investigation, which has been under way for the past 10 months, is being headed by officers from the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI).

The alleged leaks included information about a planned search-and-seize operation by the CAB. This was set to target members of the gang and other criminal associates with connections to that criminal network. Following technical inquiries by officers based at the Phoenix Park into phone calls made by criminals, the investigation was expanded to include an allegation that a garda had been paid around €20,000 for information.

Despite the information leak, the raids by the CAB went ahead. But the searches were carried out without the knowledge of local gardaí and all of those involved were from CAB and officers from Garda national units and from outside the division.

The raids stemmed from months of investigation into the drug trafficking and money laundering activities of a number of criminals.

Two of the units involved in backing up the CAB on those searches, the NBCI and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB), also took part in yesterday's arrests.

The superintendent and the detective garda are both based in the same division, while the inspector had been working there also but has since been transferred to another division. The detective garda had been arrested previously and has already been suspended from duty by Commissioner Drew Harris.

Mr Harris is expected to decide shortly whether the superintendent should be suspended, having consulted with legal advisers. A second garda has also been questioned in the past.

The superintendent was questioned throughout the day for a suspected breach of the Garda Síochána Act by allegedly disclosing information, obtained during the course of his duties, to another, knowing that the disclosure was likely to have a harmful effect.

The inspector is suspected of breaching the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act. He was suspended from duty after he was released without charge last night. The detective garda is alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

All three were questioned throughout the day at a Garda station outside the Munster region. The gardaí still in custody can be detained without charge for a maximum of 24 hours under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act but if they opt to take a rest break, while detained overnight, could be held until this afternoon.

Their period of detention was extended last night by a Garda chief superintendent. It is likely that the pair remaining in custody will be released after questioning and a file will then be prepared for the DPP.

The operation yesterday was headed by Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who is in charge of special crime operations and has overall control over the national units.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, in charge of policing and security, said: "An Garda Síochána is fully committed to investigating any alleged wrongdoing or corruption involving Garda personnel and will work with other relevant agencies in doing so."

Irish Independent

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