GSOC completes public interest criminal investigation into financial matters in Templemore; forwards file to DPP
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has this week completed an independent public interest criminal investigation into irregularities relating to the handling of EU funds in the Garda College in Templemore. A file has now been forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and a direction from that office is awaited.
The matter was referred to GSOC by then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in June 2017 following the identification of financial irregularities during an internal Garda Audit, and their subsequent discussion during hearings of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.
Relying on its statutory power under Section 102(4) of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 to commence investigations in the public interest, GSOC accordingly opened a criminal investigation into the matter, pursuant to Section 98 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.
Owing to the specialist nature of the matter, as well as in light of its connection to the handling of European Union funds, GSOC convened a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency team to conduct the investigation. Over the course of the investigation this included:
- Five Garda officers, including those with experience with the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the National Economic Crime Bureau. As provided for under the ‘special assistance’ provisions of Section 74 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, these officers were removed from the direction and control of Garda leadership, seconded to GSOC, and placed under the direct authority of GSOC’s Senior Investigator on this case.
- Two accountants, seconded from the Revenue Commissioners, with specialisms in fraud investigation.
- Specialist legal expertise, including review of the investigative case file.
The GSOC investigation was further required to have regard to, and await the completion of, the separate investigation into the matter by the European Union Anti-Fraud Office, known as OLAF. Cross-jurisdictional engagement with OLAF, and with EU and Belgian authorities, was therefore a significant element in the conduct of this investigation.
The investigation is now concluded, and a file has been sent to the DPP. The DPP is independent in its functions, pursuant to section 2(5) of the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974. GSOC will therefore not be commenting further on the case at present.
NOTES TO EDITOR
Relevant provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005
Section 102(4) of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 provides that “The Ombudsman Commission may, if it appears to it desirable in the public interest to do so and without receiving a complaint, investigate any matter that appears to it to indicate that a member of the Garda Síochána may have— (a) committed an offence, or (b) behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.”
Section 98 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 lays out the investigative powers of GSOC designated officers where the matter being investigated appears to involve an offence. Such powers include “all the powers, immunities and privileges conferred and all the duties imposed on any member of the Garda Síochána by or under any enactment or the common law”, including powers of search and entry, arrest, detention, and questioning.
Section 101(1) of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 obliges GSOC to forward a report of its criminal investigation to the DPP if it is “of the opinion that the conduct under investigation may constitute an offence”. It is then a matter solely for the DPP as to whether or not a prosecution is directed. It is under this provision that a file was sent to the DPP on completion of this investigation.
Section 74 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 makes provision for GSOC to make arrangements for special assistance from outside agencies, including an Garda Síochána, “any police service outside the State”, and “with any other body”. Subsection (4) provides that “during a period of temporary service with the Ombudsman Commission, a member of the Garda Síochána is not subject to the direction or control of the Garda Commissioner”.
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
The European Anti-Fraud Office (Office Européen de Lutte Antifraude – OLAF) investigates fraud against the EU budget, corruption and serious misconduct within the European institutions, and develops anti-fraud policy for the European Commission.
OLAF’s role is investigative and administrative. It does not have a role in imposing penalties, but may recommend what action should be taken by national authorities following its investigations. Where OLAF identifies evidence of potential criminal activity, it sends its report to the relevant national authorities recommending legal action.