New garda unit to vet insurance fraud cases
GARDAÍ are planning to set up a new centralised unit to co-ordinate efforts to tackle insurance fraud.
The move comes as the insurance crisis continues to be blamed for shutting businesses, particularly in the leisure sector.
Soaring premiums for the likes of play centres, nightclubs and community groups have been blamed on fraudulent claims and high injury pay outs.
This had prompted calls for a garda unit dedicated to detecting false claims, with insurance companies offering to fund the unit.
But Garda Commissioner Drew Harris rejected the idea of the force receiving funding from anywhere apart from the exchequer.
Now it has emerged that a new insurance co-ordination unit is to be set up in the Dublin headquarters of what used to be called the fraud squad.
The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau will have an overarching role in the fight against false claims.
It comes days after the bureau promised a clampdown on people involved in bogus insurance claims.
Gardaí are planning “super raids” in the same way they have targeted travelling burglary gangs in recent years, with solicitors’ offices to be targeted as part of the move against false claimants.
Detective Inspector Mel Smyth of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau told a conference the bureau also plans to set up a co-ordination unit to fight insurance fraud based at Harcourt Street, Dublin.
The idea is to vet and assess false injury claims and then send them back to the divisions. But this new unit will not be put in place without additional resources, he said.
This is a further development from a recent announcement that bogus claims were to be tackled at divisional level within the force.
Gardaí are known to be concerned about false claims made after incidents ranging from bogus slips and trips to staged car crashes often involving groups of people claiming for faked injuries.
Director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform Peter Boland called on the Government to put the funding in place immediately for the new insurance fraud co-ordination unit in the bureau’s head office.
He said it was farcical that the Government was considering taking money from the insurance industry to supply computers to the gardaí.
The insurance issue was too important for any delay in taking further steps to clamp down on fraudulent claims, he said.
Recently community groups warned many of them will be forced to close down due to the insurance crisis.
A survey of voluntary and community bodies shows that 83pc of them have seen premium costs shoot up in the last three years.
Most groups believe the Government is not doing enough to tackle the issue.