House and firms searched over €3.5m Drug Refund Scheme fraud

Criminal Assets Bureau and gardaí seize €150,000 in cash in multipe currencies

Gardaí have conducted a series of raids targeting a person suspected of defrauding the HSE’s drug treatment refund scheme of up to €3.7 million over a 10-year period.

The chief suspect is a company director who has been involved in commercial life in Cork for about four decades.

The suspect was targeted in an operation on Tuesday involving local officers as well as the Criminal Assets Bureau.

A number of assets were seized, including South African Kruggerand gold coins and cash in various currencies to the value of €150,000.


The offices of solicitors and accountants have also been searched and the title deeds of properties, believed to be investments arising from the fraud, have been seized.

Searches are continuing and gardaí a re examining the contents of number of safes. One residential property in west Cork has been searched along with two commercial premises in Cork City.

The raids follow a prolonged investigation by detectives in West Cork for a number of years.

Under the HSE scheme, people who do not have medical cards can claim refunds on the money they spend on medicines or items such as oxygen needed for the treatment of illness.

False claims

Under the scheme, individuals or families must pay for medicines to the value of €134. However, any amount above that sum spent in a one month period can be claimed back by applying to the drug refund scheme.

Users must register with the HSE and send claims before the monies are refunded, with pharmacists often carrying out the refund application on behalf of their customers.

The investigation is centred on a suspect gardaí believe has been making false claims under the scheme for at least 10 years. The suspect had access to the drug purchase records of members of the public for many years.

Gardaí believe fictitious drug purchases were added to patient records when claims for refunds were being lodged with the HSE. Some portion of most, if not all, of the refund claims were genuine.

Refunds were then made by the HSE based on the claims.

However, claims were also lodged for items that had not been purchased. The money refunded by the HSE for these fictitious purchases was retained by the chief suspect.

The cash seized was in euros, sterling, US dollars and other foreign currencies. Gold and silver coins were seized and gardai believe these were purchase as a means of converting large sums of cash into assets that could later be resold.

As well as the title deeds for several properties, other documents have also been seized, as have computers and other electronic devices gardaí believe may contain data that could be used as evidence in the case.

The Criminal Assets Bureau will now examine the title deeds and other documents and data seized with a view to determining if some of the allegedly stolen money is being held on deposit in accounts in Ireland or abroad.

The material seized will also be examined to unravel the purchase and sale of properties and other assets at home or abroad with a view to possibly seizing and eventually selling them to recoup money for the State.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times