Tue, 23 Feb, 2021 – 06:30
The first 15 of almost 100 gardaí due to be spoken to as part of a massive investigation into alleged corruption in Munster are expected to be interviewed this week, the Irish Examiner understands.
The interviews are being carried out by officers from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which has been conducting inquiries for more than two years in the region.
What started out as a probe into corruption surrounding the alleged leaking of information to an organised crime gang regarding Criminal Assets Bureau investigations, expanded into an investigation into the cancellation of penalty points for certain individuals.
Most of 100 or so gardaí being interviewed are believed to be considered witnesses, rather than suspects, but a percentage are being questioned under caution.
Some of the interviews were supposed to have begun last week and it was thought the bulk of them would be done together.
It has now emerged that the huge workload is to be broken up, with about 15 interviews due to take place this week.
It is then thought there will be a gap, possibly a week or more, before the next batch of interviews will be done.
This would suggest the process might take up to four months to complete.
Most of the interviews are being conducted in two neighbouring Garda divisions in Munster, though a number have taken place in other nearby counties.
It is thought the protracted nature of the interviews is causing disquiet among gardaí in the area.
Eight gardaí were suspended as part of the investigation last November, in what was the largest number of gardaí ever suspended in one action.
That decision, taken by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, was a key moment in the investigation.
It brought to 11 the number of gardaí suspended as part of the probe.
Asked about the current interviews, Garda HQ told the Irish Examiner last week: “An investigation led by the Assistant Commissioner, Organised and Serious Crime (OSC), into alleged corruption in public office continues.
“Investigating gardaí attached to the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation continue the normal investigative process of interviewing all relevant witnesses.”
It added: “As this is an ongoing investigation, An Garda Síochána is not making any further comment.”
At the time of the last suspensions in November, Garda HQ said they were related to allegations that gardaí did not pursue enforcement in relation to road traffic offences and fixed charge penalty notices.
That statement said the current phase of the investigation was focused on “corruption in public office”.