269. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he will take to tackle insurance fraud; if he will consider setting up a dedicated central Garda resource tasked with investigating fraudulent cases for potential prosecution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25429/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will appreciate that it is the Garda Commissioner who is solely responsible for organisational matters, such as the establishment of individual Garda units, the remits of any such units, and the resourcing of units. As I have outline previously to the House, the Commissioner is of the view that a divisional focus on insurance fraud is preferable to the establishment of a centralised investigation unit. This approach is aligned with the divisional-focussed 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 Deputy will be aware that the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) specifically 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 industry-funded Garda insurance fraud unit was one option considered in this regard. 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.
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 fraud reported to An Garda Síochána, the most recent figures available to the Department of Justice and Equality show that, in the period 1 October 2018 (i.e. the date on which the new statistical category of ‘insurance fraud’ came into being) to end May 2019, 50 incidents of insurance fraud were recorded on PULSE. 50% of these incidents relate to staged collisions (this data is correct as at 6 June 2019, however the data is operational and, therefore, subject to change).
Finally, the Deputy will be aware of An Garda Síochána's Operation Coatee, which targets insurance-related criminality. In April, the GNECB, supported by Lucan Garda Station, CAB and the Armed Support Units, carried out searches in the west Dublin area with a view to submitting files to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Operation Coatee was successful in making a number of important seizures including documentation and financial records.