Monday 18 December 2017

Debt deals for soldiers, gardai 'must stay secret' to avoid bribery risk

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

GARDAI, soldiers and prison officers are vulnerable to being bribed and should not have their names put on a public register if they get a state-approved debt deal, a leading mortgage arrears campaigner has said.

Consumer advocate David Hall told representative bodies for the Army, Garda and prison service that it was in nobody's interest to have debt write-down deals for those in the State's security service publicly available.

His comments come after Garda representative bodies claimed that one officer a day was becoming insolvent, with others losing their homes through bankruptcy.

People who can get their bank or other creditors to allow them do a debt settlement arrangement or a personal insolvency arrangement will be listed on the website of the Insolvency Service.

There are some 40,000 members of the three services, with Mr Hall claiming that a large number of these would need to seek debt deals from their banks.

"Whose interest is served if a member of the gardai or Army's name and details appear on a public register stating they are insolvent?

"Would there be a higher risk of people in that position being approached and bribed, which could have a significant impact on security and crime?"

He called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Finance Minister Michael Noonan to make members of the Army, gardai and prison service an exception from the new "name-and-shame" rules as part of formal debt deals.

"There is a heightened risk of members of the security forces being bribed which could cause a security risk for the State."

Mr Hall said Mr Shatter had verbally promised that people in the security services would not be disciplined if they did a formal debt deal.

But he said there was a need for greater clarity, especially for those made bankrupt.

And Mr Hall claimed that bank staff were not properly trained to deal with borrowers who were in financial and emotional distress, especially those from the Garda, Army and prison service.

Mr Hall's Irish Mortgage Holders' Organisation recently did a deal with AIB which will see it offering free advice to customers of AIB, EBS and Haven who are in mortgage arrears but have yet to approach their lender to seek a deal.

Irish Independent

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