34. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made in the establishment of a dedicated insurance fraud unit within An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17723/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will appreciate that it is the Garda Commissioner who is solely responsible for the distribution of Garda resources, including personnel among the various Garda Units, and I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, have no direct role in these matters.
As outlined in my response to parliamentary question number 458 of 8 May 2019 (PQ Ref. 18716/19), the Garda Commissioner is of the view, with regard to fraud investigations including insurance fraud, that a divisional focus is preferable rather than the establishment of a centralised investigation unit. This approach is aligned with a general divisional-focused Garda model. It is the intention of the Commissioner that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) will guide divisions and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud.
The Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) called for An Garda Síochána to explore the potential for further cooperation between it and the insurance sector in relation to insurance fraud investigation. An insurance funded Garda Unit was one option considered.
While the Commissioner has indicated that he does not support industry funding of Garda units, he is open to considering other industry-funded proposals to combat insurance fraud, for example, IT projects and/or the appointment of analysts. The Department is currently engaging with An Garda Síochána to this end, exploring these options and any other potential avenues for cooperation with the insurance sector.
On a wider level, much constructive engagement has taken place, including the commitment by An Garda Síochána and Insurance Ireland’s Anti-Fraud Forum to meet on a regular basis in order to discuss and act upon current and ongoing general issues which arise in the area of insurance fraud.
In relation to the scale of insurance claim fraud reported to An Garda Síochána, the most recent figures available to the Department show that in the period 1 October 2018 to 28 February 2019, 22 incidents of ‘insurance claim fraud’ were recorded on PULSE. Please note that this data is correct as at 4 March 2019, however it is operational and therefore subject to change.
Finally, while on the topic of insurance fraud investigation, I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate AGS on its recent success under Operation Coatee, which targets insurance-related criminality. The GNECB, supported by Lucan Garda Station, CAB and the Armed Support Units, carried out searches in the west Dublin area in April 2019, with a view to submitting files to the Director of Public Prosecutions.