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Gardai called to probe Callely's €80k rip off

BRAZEN Ivor Callely "must" face a full garda probe for defrauding the State of €80,000, a Seanad colleague and barrister said today.

The disgraced former minister was banished from the Oireachtas for 20 days last night but the Seanad has no power to force him into repaying the ill-gotten windfall.

Mr Callely has "strenuously" rejected a damning report by his peers that found he "intentionally" worked the system for financial gain.

He is now thought to be considering legal action but Fine Gael Senator Eugene Regan has called on gardai to actively pursue what he described as "white collar crime."

"We see headlines of over a thousand in court for welfare fraud. I think people should be treated equally and it's important that people know the laws apply equally," said Senator Regan.

An investigation by the Seanad Committee on Members Interests concluded that Mr Callely had "misrepresented" his place of residence for the purpose of wrongly claiming travel and subsistence expenses totalling nearly €81,000.

It described this act as being of a "serious and grave nature". The group wrote that he "did not act in good faith having regard to all of the circumstances."

Amazingly though it cannot force Mr Callely to repay the money and he may now opt to fight the findings through the courts. Asked whether he would take the legal route, he replied: "Well that's something I might have to consider."

Senator Callely said: "I find it a bit bizarre the committee's findings I intentionally misrepresented my normal place of residence and then goes on to state that the regulations would benefit from a clearer definition of what is a normal place of residence."

It also emerged today that a law firm owned by a member of the committee which investigated the senator's expenses acted on behalf of Mr Callely in relation to his west Cork home.

Fianna Fail senator Denis O'Donovan did not inform the committee that his law firm represented the Callelys in the 1990s but last night he said he could not recall the exact work that he had done for his colleague.

"I never personally met Ivor inside in my office as a solicitor-client relationship," said Senator O'Donovan. "I never actually advised him or anything."

Today Senator Eugene Regan said the Seanad had "taken what steps it can take because it cannot adopt any more serious measures such as even directing Senator Callely to repay the money or that he be suspended entirely from the House".

Therefore, he believes, it is up to Gardai to investigate whether Mr Callely acted illegally.

"This complaint was made to the Garda Station in Clontarf, it is for the Garda to follow up on that complaint.