Friday 15 December 2017

EU anti-fraud agency launches full inquiry into garda college 'slush fund'

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison has told investigators that he is fearful of ‘retaliation’ against him. Photo: Eamonn Farrell
Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison has told investigators that he is fearful of ‘retaliation’ against him. Photo: Eamonn Farrell
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The EU anti-fraud agency has launched a full inquiry into the Templemore 'slush fund' on the back of correspondence received from a garda whistleblower, the Irish Independent has learned.

The EU body Olaf wrote to Donegal-based Garda Keith Harrison last Wednesday and confirmed that after a "preliminary analysis" into activities at the training college, it had decided to launch a formal investigation.

Mr Harrison told Olaf investigators he had seen documents that pointed to financial irregularities and wrongdoing in An Garda Síochána.

In correspondence seen by this newspaper, Mr Harrison wrote: "As you will be aware, I am a serving officer in An Garda Síochána and having made such a complaint to Olaf leaves me in a very precarious position where I am vulnerable to acts of retribution by the people I have made allegations about."

While Olaf had already indicated that it would examine the allegations of alleged fraud, its letter to Mr Harrison this week illustrates for the first time that the matter is being treated very seriously.

Mr Harrison, through his solicitor Trevor Collins, did not wish to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent.

This is the first time that any serving garda has alerted EU authorities to suspicions of wrongdoing within the force.

Mr Harrison has also written to the European Court of Auditors on the back of the explosive evidence provided to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by civilian members of the force.

The probe will be led by Olaf's Nancy Van-Dorsselaer.

According to the correspondence, the decision by Mr Harrison to notify the EU stemmed from his concern that he and other colleagues share about the issue. Garda management is understood to be aware of Mr Harrison's decision.

In the correspondence to Olaf and the court of auditors, Mr Harrison writes:"The allegations I have made to you are of a very serious nature and in making them I have put myself in a very precarious position and at serious risk of retaliation by those of whom I allege potential criminal conduct.

"This is causing great distress to me as I am in a very vulnerable position and am now seeking from your office confirmation as a matter of urgency that an investigation has commenced or is to commence in the very near future. I cannot impress (upon) you enough the seriousness of the situation."

Citing documents which he says he has seen, dating from 2010, the officer says EU funds were "misdirected" to the college's laundry account and other accounts.

Irish Independent

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