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Ex-FF politician quizzed on alleged extortion attempt

A FORMER Fianna Fail politician is being investigated by gardai for allegedly attempting to extort €100,000 from an official at a government department.

The ex-politician is alleged to have threatened to divulge compromising information about the civil servant unless the money was paid up.

According to sources close to the case, the ex-politician had apparently got wind that the official had disposed of waste material and documents in breach of the department's rules.

The ex-politician then allegedly approached the civil servant in April, demanded cash, and threatened to report him if he didn't comply.

According to the allegations made to gardai, the former politician initially demanded a sum of €100,000 but subsequently reduced this sum.

The civil servant's bosses at his department quickly learned of the alleged extortion attempt and called in the Gardai.

Detectives launched a surveillance operation that culminated in a meeting in which the ex-politician allegedly demanded the money from the departmental official. It is alleged that gardai have obtained detailed evidence of what transpired between the two at this meeting.

The politician was arrested and questioned ago, but was subsequently released without charge.

A businessman, from the same county as the politician, was arrested several days later, but was also released without charge.

Neither of the men can be identified for legal reasons.

The garda investigation into the alleged extortion attempt is ongoing and a file will go to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will decide whether charges should follow.

The former politician, who is a long-term member of Fianna Fail, left active politics several years ago in order to pursue other business interests.

Like many people, it is understood he has suffered financially in the economic downturn.

A spokesman said the government department had "no comment to make on the matter" and instead referred all communication to the Garda Press Office.

A garda spokesman said: "We can confirm that two men were arrested in April 2012 in connection with an ongoing investigation.

"As this investigation is currently under way, it would be inappropriate for An Garda Siochana to comment further."

Sunday Independent