The specialist garda team investigating alleged corruption in the force is examining “how far and deep” the suspected criminality goes following the release of three officers.
The three gardaí – a superintendent, an inspector and a detective garda – were arrested as part of a high-level and secretive investigation into alleged links between garda members and an organised crime gang in Munster.
The team, from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, is set to examine, and possibly arrest, other gardaí and civilian staff.
Sources said detectives will probe if they had direct contact with the gang or if they were given information by colleagues, which they then acted upon, that, unknown to them, benefited this gang.
The gang, which is involved in the drugs trade and other illegality, is linked to an international criminal network, also based in Munster.
Sources said detectives will try to determine whether any officers also had contact with this organised crime group. The investigation team is expected to look back at the various stations in which the three officers served as part of their inquiries. Senior officers are examining in detail the statements made by the three members during questioning, following their dramatic arrest early on Thursday.
Sources on Thursday described the arrests to the Irish Examiner as “unprecedented”– not just because of the number of gardaí and the suspected offences, but the ranks of those involved. The fact they included a superintendent, which is a high-ranking senior officer, and an inspector, which is mid-ranking manager, shocked gardaí.
The superintendent was arrested for allegedly disclosing information, contrary to section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. The inspector was arrested for alleged drug offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977-84. The detective garda was arrested for suspected conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, contrary to common law.
The garda was previously arrested, last January, on suspicion of receiving payment for disclosing information regarding investigations by the Criminal Assets Bureau against the gang. The garda has been suspended from duty since then.
The inspector was released on Thursday evening, and the superintendent and garda were released early on Friday. The superintendent was also suspended from duty. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Sources said that while the team will be “focused” on this investigation, it could be a “first phase” of a wider operation. One senior source said: “The question is how deep and far does this go. Once you start pulling threads, things unravel.” He said the team will look back at the officers’ stints in different stations and their actions there.
But sources said the ability to gather evidence will be far more limited than the current investigation, which is thought to have been based, at least in part, on the interception of communications and surveillance.
Senior sources said there is no indication of any local investigations suspected of being potentially compromised and that inquiries were currently related to operations in Munster by the Dublin-based CAB.
These sources also said they do not expect that successful prosecutions involving these three officers against organised crime gangs will be affected by the NBCI investigation.