Revenue staff paid extra for "danger" work at crime bureau

 

REVENUE officials are being paid an extra £6,500 a year for working at the Criminal Assets Bureau, the agency set up by the Government to investigate drug traffickers wealth.

The incentive was considered necessary to persuade Revenue officials to leave other posts and volunteer for what is regarded as a dangerous job.

It brings their salaries to about £27,000 a year. But because the £6,500 extra is taxable, the extra take home pay amounts to about £3,400 a year.

This compares with the basic salary of about £19,000 paid to the gardai working alongside the officials at the bureau.

However, senior Garda sources said gardai at the bureau are receiving allowances, including overtime payments, which increase their pay and bring it close to the officials level.

The bureau was set up after years of disagreement between politicians and the Revenue over whether the tax authorities were making sufficient effort to target drug dealers assets. Critics of the Revenue suggested its officials were reluctant to tackle the dealers because of fears for their personal safety.

Although the Government initially opposed the idea, it finally set up the bureau as part of the anti crime package which followed the murder of the journalist Veronica Guerin on June 26th.

Aside from gardai and Revenue officials, the bureau, which has about 40 members, also employs some department of Social Welfare officials to try and reduce the level of State benefits paid to dealers.

Headed by Garda Chief Supt Fachtna Murphy, it is the most secretive unit in the State apparatus. The legislation which set it up provides that some officers of the unit giving evidence before a court can do so from behind a screen, with their faces seen only by the judge.

The Garda Federation, which represents - 2,500 mainly Dublin based gardai, said the gardai and the Revenue officials at the bureau should be paid equally because "they're doing the same job".

Mr Chris Finnegan, national secretary of the federation, claimed the gardai at the bureau were "discriminated against". They were offered no extra pay when directed to work for the bureau, but they faced dangers equal to those faced by the Revenue officials, he said.

He added that the legislation which established the bureau could even be seen as exposing the gardai working in it to greater risks, because while Revenue officials could remain anonymous throughout proceedings against criminals, gardai would be required to identify themselves.

"It's not good enough that guards are in the front line while there's discrimination against them," he said. "This has to be addressed".