Paul Williams: Arrest of garda superintendent and inspector as part of corruption investigation sends shockwaves through force
The arrests of a garda superintendent and inspector this morning as part of a corruption investigation is a dramatic and unprecedented development which has sent shock waves through the Force and the law-abiding community.
It is always extremely disturbing and concerning in a civilised society when senior members of the national police force are under suspicion for leaking information to an organised crime gang.
The three arrests - which also included a member of garda rank - are part of a long-running criminal investigation which began probing the links between a garda and a drug gang operating in the mid-west.
That officer was arrested earlier this year by colleagues in the National Bureau of Fraud Investigation. He was not among the three officers arrested this morning.
At the time the Irish Independent revealed that the officer was suspected of receiving €20,000 in return for secret information on the progress of a CAB investigation into the gang’s money laundering operation.
The arrests this morning of the three gardai in the south of the country – the superintendent, inspector and another rank and file garda - are believed to be the latest development in that corruption investigation.
The two senior officers who were detained shortly before 8am are well known and respected in the area where they work.
Both men have extensive experience in investigating organised crime and played a crucial role in the capture and conviction of members of one of the country’s most dangerous criminal gangs.
Reliable and senior sources this morning told the Irish Independent that the decision to make the arrests, rather than interviewing the three officers, was not taken lightly.
The sources confirmed the names of the senior officers and revealed that the arrests are the culmination of a long-running investigation headed up by Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll of the Special Crimes Operations (SCO).
It is understood that the investigation included surveillance and the interception of phone and text conversations between a number of individuals over several months.
The superintendent was arrested under Section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act, which relates to the disclosure of confidential information obtained in the course of his or her duties while the garda inspector was arrested for a suspected breach of provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The garda has been arrested for suspected conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
This arrest operation is unlike any other internal investigation in the history of An Garda Siochana.
Previously the arrest of the former head of the garda press office, the now disgraced Superintendent Dave Taylor, was the first time that an officer of such elevated rank was lifted as part of a criminal investigation. This related to the alleged disclosure of information to media, and not a criminal gang.
In that case the DPP eventually decided that Taylor had no case to answer and his suspension from duty was lifted.
The investigation which led to this morning’s operation also involved the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB).
A senior source told the Irish Independent this morning: “The arrests have shocked everyone in the organisation because the guys involved are experienced and well respected with good track records as police officers.
“The decision to arrest senior members was not taken lightly because if it is found that the officers have no case to answer they would be perfectly entitled to sue the Commissioner because accusing a police officer of corruption is the worst possible attack on a person’s integrity and reputation,” the source added.