Garda investigation into Leo Varadkar’s GP document leak likely to take several months
…© (Photo by Niall Carson – Pool/Getty Images) Tanaiste Leo Varadkar
The investigation is being conducted by the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) based in Harcourt Square in Dublin. Comparable to the FBI or National Crime Agency in the UK, the NBCI is the State’s primary criminal investigation unit made up of highly experienced detectives trained in advanced interview techniques.
Who is investigating Leo Varadkar?
Part of its broad portfolio is responsibility for the investigation of allegations of corruption internally and in Government and semi-State bodies, thus their involvement in this inquiry.
What are they investigating?
A team of detectives has been assigned by the Garda Commissioner to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disclosure two years ago by Mr Varadkar, when he was Taoiseach, of a copy of an agreement between the State and the Irish Medical Organisation to his friend Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, the then president of a rival GP organisation, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP). The now Tánaiste had admitted that what he did was “inappropriate”.
Why is this a criminal investigation and what are the gardaí looking for?
It has been revealed that following a preliminary inquiry into the leaking of the document the NBCI decided to launch a criminal investigation.© Stock photo Garda sign lamp – stock photo
But the ‘revelation’ may be just a tad misleading.
Any investigation by the gardaí is, by its very nature, a criminal investigation. It wasn’t really a surprise when it came out that the inquiry has been upgraded, considering that it involves allegations of wrongdoing at the highest levels of Government.
The first objective of this inquiry – and gardaí say that this is no different to any other investigation – will be to establish if there is evidence that Mr Varadkar breeched the Official Secrets Act or any other part of the criminal code.
How will the investigation be conducted?
Former Health Minister Simon Harris and officials at the Department of Health have been interviewed by detectives and have given statements.
Over the coming weeks any other officials with knowledge of the document and how it was leaked will also be interviewed.
The recipient of the leaked document, Dr Ó Tuathail, will also be interviewed as will all those involved in a NAGP WhatsApp group.
Yesterday the Tánaiste said he had not yet heard from the gardaí but that his lawyers had been in contact with them.
This is normal practice as the person at the centre of an investigation is one of the last to be interviewed.
By that time detectives will have collated all the interviews and also analysed phone records and emails and will have formulated a fuller picture of what questions to put to Mr Varadkar.
How long will it take to complete?
The NBCI, like in any criminal investigation, will have to follow the evidence and establish the facts. In the words of one detective: “It will take as long as it takes.”
What happens then?
Gardaí will prepare a detailed file on the case in which the evidence will be laid out in a sequential, factual report based on the interviews with those they have questioned and other information gleaned during the inquiry for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
If gardaí are satisfied they have identified breeches of the criminal law this will be outlined in detail citing the evidence to hand. However, even if gardaí recommend any charges against the Tánaiste, the final arbiter will be the DPP whose officials will closely examine the file.
In many cases the prosecutor will send back further queries to the gardaí before coming to a determination.
Rarely if ever will the DPP overrule a Garda recommendation that there be no prosecution.
Despite the current political turmoil and demand for immediate action, this process is likely to take several months.