Tyre firm's ex-manager faces Garda fraud charges

The former national sales manager for Advance Tyres has gone on trial charged with conspiring to defraud the State over a contract to supply tyres to An Garda Síochana.

The former national sales manager for Advance Tyres has gone on trial charged with conspiring to defraud the State over a contract to supply tyres to An Garda Síochana.

Ben Meehan, aged 47, of Bettyglen, Raheny, formerly the National Fleet Sales Manager for Advance Tyres, is accused of conspiring with his colleague, Michael Queenan, and with Sergeant Ronan Dunne to falsify figures so that Advance would retain the contract to supply tyres for garda cars.

He has pleaded not guilty to conspiring with them to defraud the Minster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform by agreeing to prepare a memorandum which purported to be a price list of Advance Tyres Company Ltd in order to support a false analysis of comparative tyre prices which they knew to be false, with the intention to defraud, on a date between May 1, 1998 and July 31, 1998.

Mr John A Edwards SC (with Mr Fergal Foley BL), prosecuting, told the jury that prior to the early 1990s tyres were bought directly from a supplier and stored at Garda Headquarters. He said this system was costly and inefficient.

Mr Edwards told the jury there was a "substantial amount of business to be had" from Government contracts.

Mr Jack Farrell of Advance Tyres approached Superintendent Tom Hennessy with a proposal to decentralise supply of tyres, a proposal in tune with contemporary Government policy to seek better value for money.

Tenders to supply tyres to Government entities at a percentage discount of the wholesale price were invited by the Government Supplies Agency (GSA) in 1993. A panel of suppliers, which included Advance Tyres, was approved by the GSA.

An Garda Síochana was then able to decide which supplier, as approved by the GSA, was best able to meet its needs. Following a review of suppliers in 1998 the GSA again approved Advance Tyres as a supplier to Government bodies.

Mr Edwards said An Garda Siochana had set up an internal committee to control purchasing. Sgt Ronan Dunne wrote to the companies on the panel requesting price lists in order to carry out a comparative study.

The jury would hear that the list received from Advance Tyres was inaccurate and some prices had been altered downwards through an agreement between the three men to falsify figures to ensure Advance Tyres would be seen as extremely cost competitive.

Mr Edwards said Michael Queenan altered the list on Ben Meehan’s instructions as a favour to Sgt Ronan Dunne. This had not been authorised by the board or senior management of Advance Tyres. The jury would hear Meehan did this to advance his position in the company.

Mr Edwards said the incorrect list made Advance Tyres stand up very favourably and ensured they were used by An Garda Síochana almost exclusively, which would not have happened if the figures had not been, "massaged".

The trial continues before Judge Yvonne Murphy and a jury of five men and seven women.

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