Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (371)

Brendan Smith


371. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a Garda unit will be established to tackle fraudulent insurance claims arising from the report by the Cost of Insurance Working Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45570/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. The Deputy will appreciate that the Commissioner is solely responsible for the allocation of personnel as well as organisational matters including the nature/number of Garda units involved in investigating any given criminal matter, including insurance fraud, and the resourcing of criminal investigations.

I am informed that the Commissioner is of the view that a Divisional focus on insurance fraud is preferable to the establishment of a centralised investigation unit. This approach is aligned with the Divisional-focused Garda model. It is the intention of the Commissioner that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) will guide Divisions and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud.

The Deputy will be aware that the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) specifically called for An Garda Síochána to explore the potential for further cooperation between it and the insurance sector in relation to insurance fraud investigation. An industry-funded Garda insurance fraud unit was one option considered in this regard. While the Commissioner has indicated that he does not support industry funding of Garda units, he is open to considering other industry-funded proposals to combat insurance fraud.

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 under Operation Coatee.

Operation Coatee was launched in April 2019, its focus being the prevention of insurance-related fraud and associated crimes on a coordinated 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. Arising from the ‘day of action’, 6 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. I understand that on 15 October, Gardaí arrested 5 individuals by way of follow-up to searches conducted on 24 April and investigations are ongoing.