The EU’s anti-fraud agency has opened a formal investigation into the Garda college, which is likely to include interviews with key gardaí and searches of linked facilities.
The Office Européen de Lutte Anti-Fraude (OLAF) confirmed the move last night after spending weeks examining concerns that hundreds of thousands of euro in EU grants may have been misused since 1998.
As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, the anti-fraud agency has been carrying out a preliminary examination of issues at the Garda college. Unlike the Dáil Public Accounts Committee investigation into the college, which will be published tomorrow, the OLAF inquiry was focussed solely on concerns over how large amounts of EU grants meant for frontline services were instead transferred to a private account. The account was based in the AIB branch in Cabra, Dublin City, and controlled by a former high-ranking garda.
After examining the concerns and the issues relating to EU grants in an internal Garda report released earlier this year which claimed 5% of Cepol funding was re-routed to other accounts since 1998, OLAF said it would spend time considering the matter.
Last night, a spokesperson said that OLAF “can confirm that, after a preliminary analysis, it is investigating the matter” as part of a full inquiry.
OLAF said the details of such an inquiry have not yet been revealed, in order to protect the confidentiality of ongoing investigations, potential future judicial proceedings and any “personal” data uncovered during inquiries.
However, any such investigation by the EU body into financial issues is allowed to question individual gardaí and to search specific premises if it is felt necessary.
The official EU decision to launch the probe into the Garda college financial scandal comes just 24 hours before the cross-party Dáil Public Accounts Committee publishes its detailed report into the wider financial controversy.
The report is expected to be highly critical of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, who yesterday received the continued backing of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The Central Bank is also due to confirm whether it is to open a formal probe into the St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union and account in Cabra under “money laundering” legislation.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved