Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (648)

Thomas P. Broughan


648. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 28 May 2019 to which no reply was received, if he will report on Garda Operation Coatee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36125/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I undertook to obtain a Garda report in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 28 May 2019 and to revert to the Deputy on receipt of information from An Garda Síochána.  I have received a Garda report on the matter and can inform the Deputy as follows.

Operation Coatee was launched in April 2019. Its focus is the prevention of insurance-related fraud and associated crimes on a co-ordinated basis throughout Ireland. In circumstances where insurance fraud has already occurred, Operation Coatee is designed to maximise the prospect of identifying suspected culprits, and, where possible and appropriate, to initiate criminal proceedings.

A ‘day of action’ was undertaken at the commencement of Operation Coatee on 24 April 2019.  The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) engaged in operational activity associated with an investigation relating to over 20 insurance claims which have been made and which, in some cases, have already involved payment being made to claimants. Investigations carried out to date by GNECB indicate that a number of targets in this operation have submitted multiple claims, in many circumstances while using false identities. The suspected bogus claims involved in this case, result from false claims of injury sustained through slips and falls.

Personnel attached to GNECB, supported by personnel from within the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and Armed Support Units (ASUs), undertook a number of searches in the West Dublin area for the purpose of gathering additional evidence, with a view to submitting files to the Director of Public Prosecutions, in an effort to prosecute those suspected of insurance-related criminality.

In addition, search warrants were executed at a number of solicitors' offices. Arising from the day of action, six high-value cars and jewellery with a value in excess of €300,000 were seized, along with a substantial amount of documentation and financial records.  The evidence seized continues to be analysed.

As the Deputy will appreciate, reports of insurance-related fraud are received by An Garda Síochána, and statistics are not held by my Department.  Changes were made to the Garda PULSE system last year to provide An Garda Síochána with the facility to more efficiently record insurance-related criminality. In relation to the scale of insurance fraud reported to An Garda Síochána, the most recent figures available to my Department are available in the ninth progress report published by the Cost of Insurance Working Group in July, a copy of which is available at the following link:

In the period from 1 November 2018 (i.e. the date on which the new statistical category of ‘insurance fraud’ came into being) to the end of May 2019, 50 incidents of insurance fraud were recorded on PULSE.  This data is correct as at 6 June 2019, however data is operational and subject to change.

More recently, each Garda Síochána Division has been requested to provide information regarding the extent of insurance-related fraud. This information is being examined at the GNECB and will be utilised to determine investigative activity, which will be undertaken in additional ‘days of action’ under Operation Coatee.

Finally, the Deputy may be interested to note that, over a number of years, the GNECB and the Garda Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) have delivered training courses to Garda members engaged in economic crime-related investigations, across all Garda divisions. Since 2015, in conjunction with the Garda Síochána Training College and University College Dublin (UCD), GNECB and GNCCB have offered an accredited course to about 44 members per annum, drawn from all Garda Divisions, as well as from specialist units engaged in the investigation of economic crime. Representatives from the private sector, including the insurance industry are also invited to contribute to the course, thereby providing specialist insight into relevant insurance sector-related topics.  On completion of training,  successful candidates are awarded a Post Graduate Certificate in Fraud and E-Crime Investigation from UCD. It is anticipated that additional training of this nature, will commence in November 2019.