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Gardaí deny booze bribes

News

Gardaí deny booze bribes


Superintendent appointed to examine allegations

Áine Ryan

A SENIOR garda is examining serious allegations about Belmullet gardaí accepting boxes of booze from Shell before Christmas 2007, The Mayo News can exclusively reveal. The Garda Press Office confirmed last night that ‘a garda superintendent had been appointed to examine the matter’. It declined to confirm the identity of the garda, but The Mayo News understands it is Swinford Supt Thomas Murphy and that he was appointed a month ago, despite earlier protestations from An Garda Síochána that the matter had been investigated and there was nothing to report.
This news comes after a call by Erris Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh for Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to act quickly to clarify to the people of Erris and the entire country that all members of An Garda Síochána are above bribery. She told The Mayo News last night that rumours of the delivery of a large amount of alcohol, reportedly worth €29,500, to Belmullet Garda Station before Christmas 2007 had been rife for some time in the community.
She criticised both Shell and the gardaí for issuing ‘unclear and ambiguous statements’ which did not categorically deny that such an incident occurred. Ms Conway-Walsh stressed that the culture of giving ‘sweeteners’ or  gifts to individuals or groups associated with the development of the Corrib Gas project, and moreover, the implementation of a community grants system, was very different to this alarming development.
“Now that this story has appeared in a reputable British newspaper, it is in the interest of Shell, the gardaí and the community to bring immediate clarity to the matter. An Garda Síochána are meant to be above the law, so this is a very serious matter and very different from people getting their driveways done or getting a new tennis-court,” Ms Conway-Walsh said yesterday (Monday).

OSSL
MANAGED by Glaswegian Desmond Kane and Belfast native Neil Rooney, small oil services company, OSSL provided  services for the oil giant since it took over the project in 2002 until early 2010. Despite efforts to contact the company yesterday, Rooney told The Guardian that its ‘accommodation services’ included the provision of ‘a tennis court, cookers, television set, agricultural equipment’ for local residents. The delivery of the boxes of booze, in an unmarked van which transported the festive goods from northern Ireland, by all accounts, was a new departure for the company.
OSSL claims relations soured subsequently when Shell allegedly requested that another contractor, instead of the oil giant directly be invoiced for such ‘accommodation services’.
The invoice for the consignment of alcohol is on-view on www.royaldutchshellplc.com, the site  of well-known Shell watchdog, John Donovan.
Donovan told The Mayo News yesterday he ‘made it plain to Shell that if they categorically stated that the invoice was fabricated, then [he] would remove it from [his] website’. The Observer also asked the gardaí and Supt John Gilligan, who was the garda chief at the time in Belmullet, to deny the claim but they simply re-sent a a prepared statement.  
 The original Garda statement said: “Inquiries conducted in relation to these allegations found no evidence of alcohol being distributed to members of An Garda Síochána by, or on behalf of, Shell E&P.”
A Shell spokesman said the company had ‘not paid OSSL the monies outlined in the invoice. It would be against Shell’s Business Principles to pay an invoice for this sort of activity’.

Invoice
THE OSSL invoice is very detailed and is dated August 24, 2012, five years after the alleged delivery occurred. Over eight points it specifies the name of a Shell employee who instructed OSSL to send a commercial unmarked vehicle (registration given) to northern Ireland twice for quantities of alcohol and to return it to a container in Bangor-Erris.
Shell personnel were to be given free access to this alcohol on request and two-thirds of the remaining alcohol was to be transferred to Belmullet Garda Station to three named senior gardaí. The rest was to be transported in an unmarked vehicle to the Athlone by-pass where another senior garda was allegedly given a quantity of the booze.
Shell said yesterday the row with OSSL arose after it terminated its contract in early 2010 because the main construction work was completed. Issues over the contract arose and, according to Shell ‘OSSL alleged falsification of invoices and further alleged delivery of alcohol to the Gardaí, as well as non business-related works and gifts for some local residents. They claimed these activities had occurred in 2007’.
The spokesman said that because of the gravity of the allegations it held ‘an independent internal investigation’ during which there was no ‘evidence’ to substantiate OSSL’s claims.
Allegations
“IF these allegations by OSSL are spurious, why haven’t the gardaí or Shell categorically denied them or got an injunction against them?” asked Marua Harrington last night.
Vincent McGrath of Pobail Chill Chomáin said he was ‘not surprised that Shell would be tempted to offer gifts in an effort to win support for the project when the Government appointed mediator, Peter Cassels, recommended in his report that they this is how they should proceed.
“However the allegations that members of An Garda Síochána may also have been the recipients of such ‘sweeteners’ in the form of alcohol is a matter of the utmost gravity,” he said.