Monday 18 December 2017

DPP jets around world in 31 trips for €35k

Boss of 'overstretched' office is junket veteran

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

The Director of Public Prosecutions, James Hamilton, who complained last week that his office is "overstretched" has junketeered around the world at the taxpayers' expense, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Since January 2008, the taxpayer has footed a bill of more than €35,000 for flights and luxury hotels during 31 foreign trips taken by Mr Hamilton to destinations including South Africa, Singapore, Brazil, Prague, Madrid, Venice, Dubai, Cameroon and Vienna.

The revelations come days after Mr Hamilton said his office was already "fully stretched and if there is a further increase in the workload, something will have to give". He was speaking in the context of proposed further cuts to his office and that of the Attorney General.

Despite his comments, according to documents released to this newspaper, Mr Hamilton has travelled extensively throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and even to Colombia, at the expense of the taxpayer.

It has emerged that back in April, as a result of the disruption to air travel caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, on his way back from a conference in Brazil, Mr Hamilton was forced to rent a car and drive the 1,400km from Lisbon, Portugal to Cherbourg, France and travel home by ferry. The bill for his road and ferry trip was €2,462.

"The director's return flight was cancelled for several days and in light of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding volcanic ash, the director hired a car and drove himself from Lisbon to Cherbourg," the documents state.

The expenses are now the subject of an insurance claim, the documents add.

Included in the documents released were details of a €748 claim for an overnight stay in London for a "training day". The taxpayer footed a bill of €365 for Mr Hamilton's one- night stay at the five-star Royal Horseguards' Hotel.

Then there was the €4,642 bill for a seven-day trip to Singapore, where he attended a conference. The taxpayer forked out €1,408 for his stay at the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

In late September and early October 2008, in the days around the bank guarantee, the taxpayer also paid more than €700 for flights to two conferences in Paris and Edinburgh he didn't even attend.

According to the documents, which were released under a Freedom of Information request, Mr Hamilton's most-visited location at the taxpayers' expense was Venice.

Since January 2008, Mr Hamilton has travelled to the Italian city eight times to attend the Council of Europe's European Commission for Democracy through Law at a cost of €10,000.

His office refused to detail which hotel he stayed at for "security reasons".

So far this year, Mr Hamilton has already taken 10 foreign trips. In addition to China and Venice, he has attended meetings and conferences in The Hague, Vienna, Madrid, Salvador, Brazil and Prague.

In a 12-week period between September and December 2009, he went on six junkets -- to Venice twice (at a cost of €1,915), a three-day trip to Dubai (€1,125), a three- day trip to Cape Town (€2,602) a three-day journey to Tallinn, Estonia (€737.40), and a five-day stay in Kiev, Ukraine (€2,740).

Only last month, Mr Hamilton addressed a conference of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) in Macao, China.

While his flights and hotels were paid for, the taxpayer still lost out to the tune of €52 because of a currency conversion differential at the time the money was reimbursed.

"The office does not propose to pursue this cost," the documents state.

The taxpayer also paid for a present from Kilkenny Design to the president and secretary general of the IAACA.

In September, the taxpayer footed a bill of €2,534 for a seven-day trip to the Hague, where Mr Hamilton attended the annual conference of the International Association of Prosecutors.

Included in this was an accommodation bill for the four-star Kurhaus Hotel and a subsistence claim of €850.

In fairness to Mr Hamilton, he hasn't always travelled in style. On a trip back from Lithuania, the DPP flew on Ryanair from Kaunas at a cost of €165. Again coming back from one of his trips to Venice, Mr Hamilton flew with Michael O'Leary's carrier from Bologna at a cost of €61.

It has also emerged that since his appointment in 1999, his wife has accompanied him on a number of his official trips abroad.

However, the documents reveal that at no time did she do so at the expense of the taxpayer.

Sunday Independent

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