Tuesday 23 January 2018

Garda suspended over VRT scam allegations

Gardai (Stock image)
Gardai (Stock image)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A garda has been suspended from duty over his alleged involvement in a vehicle registration tax (VRT) scam estimated to have cost the taxpayer thousands of euros, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The midlands-based garda, who buys and sells imported cars, is facing a criminal investigation over his alleged involvement.

The alleged car tax fraud is also understood to involve an official from the Revenue Commissioner's office, who has also been suspended from work pending a criminal investigation.

The garda is believed to have imported a number of cars from the UK before obtaining fraudulent tax certificates for the vehicles.

"As well as being suspended there is a criminal investigation into that garda and the fraud operation," a senior source said.

The garda was suspended from duty within the last month and is likely to face a court action over his alleged involvement in the scam.

He also faces an internal garda disciplinary action over the allegations.

However, a Garda spokesman said they cannot comment on the allegations.

"Gardai do not comment on internal disciplinary matters," the spokesman said.

A Revenue Commissioner spokeswoman confirmed a staff member has been suspended over the fraud claims.

"There was an issue dealt with by the Revenue Commissioner under the civil service disciplinary code and the matter is currently the subject of a criminal investigation," she said. The Revenue official was suspended from work last year.

The Sunday Independent understands the garda at the centre of the allegations was previously cleared of an assault charge after an incident that took place in a nightclub.

He also played a central role in high-profile garda investigations which gained national attention.

Sources say the scam cost the State significant amounts of money in lost revenue.

It is claimed the garda imported high specification cars from the UK but registered them for VRT at lower rates with the aid of the Revenue official.

The move allegedly resulted in the garda making significant savings - at the cost of the taxpayer - when he eventually sold on the cars.

It is alleged the garda was paying the Revenue official to process the fraudulent forms.

"They were very close and she was registering the cars from UK to Irish plates," a source said. "It is alleged he went to her house and paid her cash and she kept it in her pocket," the source added.

VRT must be paid on all cars and motorbikes, and vehicles must be registered before they can be licensed for motor tax.

The National Car Testing Service (NCTS) currently carries out vehicle registration checks on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners.

All unregistered cars or cars registered outside of Ireland must make an appointment with the NCTS for a pre-registration examination of the vehicle within seven days of being imported into Ireland.

Prior to this, VRT checks had been carried out by Revenue officials. It is unclear if the alleged scam was carried out before or after the NCTS was given responsibility to carry out the checks.

Under legislation, the decision to suspend a member of An Garda Siochana lies with Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Once a garda is suspended, the Commissioner can review the case every three month or at shorter intervals if deemed necessary. An internal disciplinary action facing the garda will run parallel to the criminal investigation which is currently underway.

Sunday Independent

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