Insurance fraudsters face ‘super raids’ in Garda crackdown

Solicitors’ and accountants’ offices to be targeted as part of days of action on bogus claims

Gardaí have begun a significant clampdown on people involved in bogus insurance claims. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Gardaí have begun a significant clampdown on people involved in bogus insurance claims. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Gardaí have begun a significant clampdown on people involved in bogus insurance claims and are planning to tackle them with “super raids” in the same way they have targeted travelling burglary gangs in recent years.

A national crime-fighting co-ordination conference involving senior detectives from across the country is due to take place next week, during which intelligence gathered on insurance fraudsters is set to be reviewed.

Suspects already identified have been involved in a range of claims, made after incidents ranging from bogus slips and trips to staged car crashes often involving groups of people claiming for faked injuries. Some suspects have made repeated claims, including under false identities, and have advised or co-ordinated others in making false claims. Garda sources said both Irish and foreign groups had been identified for targeting.

Between last November and the end of May, some 50 cases of insurance fraud were recorded.

Arising from next week’s conference, days of action, or “super raids”, will be scheduled around the Republic targeting those involved in insurance fraud.

These would take the form of co-ordinated searches on the homes of suspects, searches being conducted at solicitors’ and accountants’ offices, financial records being sought for seizure, and, in some cases, assets being taken away from suspects.

The days of action will be led by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and will also involve the Criminal Assets Bureau, Armed Support Units and gardaí from local stations. They will be planned under Operation Coatee.

When those super raids are completed, further crime conferences will be held and more searches planned in a bid to ensure a new, relentless approach to insurance fraud.

New crime category

Last November, the Garda included a new “insurance fraud” crime category on its Pulse database in a bid to better capture the extent of the problem and identify chief suspects.

These records, and historical intelligence on insurance fraudsters, will now be used to select the targets for a wave of super raids.

Senior detectives from the regions will feed their information to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and, under Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll, plans will be set several times each year to target specific gangs.

The same approach has been taken to travelling burglary gangs under Operation Thor and has proven very effective, with burglary rates at or close to record lows in recent years.

Mr O’Driscoll, who is in charge of special operations in the Garda, co-ordinated Operation Thor. He is also expected to chair and direct the imminent conference on insurance fraudsters.

Independent TD Tommy Broughan, who has campaigned on the issue of rising insurance premiums, said he was pleased to hear the Garda was now stepping up its approach and set to tackle insurance fraudsters like it would organised criminals.

He also welcomed the fact that the offices of lawyers and other professionals would be searched as part of the Garda’s plans. Mr Broughan noted some judges had urged lawyers to be more careful about which compensation cases they agreed to take on.

However, Mr Broughan said the insurance industry often said a culture of bogus claims was the reason for insurance cover becoming more expensive, which he disputes. He looked forward to the new statistics on insurance fraud now being captured by the Garda setting out a clearer picture as to the extent of the crime.