Fears of rise in gambling among gardai after theft
Gardai with gambling debts are becoming a major cause of concern within the force as it emerged that €9,000 was stolen from an evidence bag containing €26,000 stolen from a shop in Lusk, north Co Dublin, on January 19 last.
A detective superintendent from outside the Balbriggan district is heading an investigation that includes examination of financial records of all gardai in the district.
Sources say that online gambling is now a significant cause of debt among members desperate for cash. It is understood three investigations are under way over missing money from evidence, the one in Balbriggan, one in Dublin city and another in the south-east.
The major fear is not just the theft of cash from evidence but that gardai may fall prey to organised criminals, as has been known to happen in the past. It was learnt last week that gardai in the Balbriggan district were asked to contribute €70 each to make up for the stolen cash, which had been held in a safe in a first-floor office in the station.
The office is unattended outside office hours. Gardai objected to the idea of a levy and refused to pay.
About 140 gardai serve in the four stations in the Balbriggan district. It is not clear if the money was stolen in the immediate aftermath of the seizure in January or while it was being held at Balbriggan station.
The missing €9,000 was noticed two weeks ago when the owner of the shop in Lusk asked for the return of the stolen money.
Gardai objected to the verbal request for a levy and the idea was dropped, it is understood. The Garda Press Office refused to comment about the proposal for a levy on all members serving in the district.
The theft has raised wider concerns in the force over indebtedness. According to sources, a number of gardai are known to have accumulated substantial gambling debts as they tried to bet their way out of debt.
There are acute concerns that some gardai may, in distress, fall to accepting bribes. There are recorded instances of this, including the case of former Garda John O'Neill, from Tallaght, who was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for corruption after it was discovered he was accepting bribes from the gang led by John Gilligan.
O'Neill was uncovered during the investigation into the murder of Veronica Guerin.
Garda pay has been substantially reduced in the past two years due to cuts in overtime, basic salary and allowances. Many younger gardai took out mortgages and loans based on their accumulated salary including overtime, and are now in serious negative equity and debt.
Officially gardai are forbidden from being unable to repay debt under the force's regulations. However, this regulation has been waived in recent years because of the high numbers in severe debt.