Garda arrests come amid fears of links with drugs gang

Local gardaí not part of raid as specialist unit sought to minimise risk of information leak

The Garda specialist unit that carried out the raid was supported by armed Garda back-up. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The Garda specialist unit that carried out the raid was supported by armed Garda back-up. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

A Garda specialist unit decided not to inform local Garda members in a regional Garda division of its intentions to carry out a criminal raid because it feared information may leak back to the gang.

Instead, The Irish Times has learned, information about a significant day of action was retained within the specialist unit based in Dublin.

Its members then travelled across the country, with armed Garda back-up, and commenced its raids against an organised crime gang it was targeting.

Local gardaí only became aware the raid was under way long after it had commenced and did not participate in it. The decision not to inform or involve local officers is unusual. However, the co-ordinated action proved successful and gardaí believe the criminals had no prior warning.

Information on the operation emerged after three officers were arrested.

The trio’s detention – a garda, inspector and superintendent – are linked. They form part of a wider inquiry into alleged unusual relationships between a small number of officers and a crime gang in the Munster region.

The gang is involved in the drugs trade, has amassed significant wealth and a substantial company with stock worth several million euro which it uses to launder the proceeds of crime.

There are concerns that members of the gang were receiving information about progress in a Criminal Assets Bureau inquiry into it.

While the three arrests are linked, only the member of superintendent rank was being questioned on suspicion of leaking information. This senior officer has been arrested under the provisions of section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005. It relates to Garda members disclosing information.

Officers suspects for some time

The inspector was being questioned under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977-84. The member of garda rank was being questioned about an alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.The investigation is trying to establish whether the gang had been assisted by Garda members. The inquiry has been ongoing for some time and several officers have been suspects for a period of time.

It is understood the superintendent is the most senior grade of the Garda to be arrested in the force’s history. One other superintendent has previously been arrested; also on suspicion of releasing information, though as part of a unrelated case. That officer was never charged with any criminal offence and he was also never suspected of having any dealings whatever with criminals.

A Garda statement about Thursday morning’s events stated that the operation had been led by Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll who is in charge of Special Crime Operations within the force.

The operation also involved personnel attached the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Garda National Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, who is in charge of Policing and Security in the force, said the three members were being questioned “arising from suspicion that they have been involved in the commission of one or more criminal offences”.

He added: “An Garda Síochána is fully committed to investigating any alleged wrongdoing or corruption involving Garda personnel, and will work with other relevant agencies in doing so.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said in a statement: “While I obviously can’t comment on individual cases, I expect a thorough and timely investigation.”

Last night, one of the officers, the inspector was released without charge, with a file going to the DPP. Detention was extended for the others two.