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GSOC finds ‘no evidence’ for Belmullet garda booze allegations

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GSOC finds ‘no evidence’ for Belmullet garda booze allegations 



Shell and An Garda Síochána welcome the report

Áine Ryan

A GARDA Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into allegations that certain gardaí, policing the Corrib gas project, received gifts of alcohol from Shell, has found ‘[no] evidence of the purchase or delivery of alcohol to garda stations, nor of any misconduct of garda members’.
Both Shell E&P Ireland and An Garda Síochána welcomed the report but declined to comment to The Mayo News on whether they would take legal action against OSSL for possible reputational damage due to the public nature of the allegations. Responding to the query, Shell said it had nothing further to add to its original statement.
“However, we hope that the outcome of the GSOC investigation will bring an end to this matter and that Mr Kane will now desist in his behaviour.” GSOC opened the investigation last October after receiving two complaints from partners in services company, OSSL, which had worked for a number of years for Shell E&P Ireland on the Corrib project.
The company, whose Managing Director is Mr Des Kane, claimed it had delivered alcohol to Belmullet Garda Station before Christmas 2005, 2006 and 2007.
They claimed they had not been paid for the delivery of the 2007 alcohol, which they alleged amounted to €43,000 for €29,500 worth of alcohol. The GSOC investigation, which was led by Mr Johan Groenewald, stated that the investigator made numerous contacts with the complainants by phone, email and face-to-face.
“The investigation process was outlined to the complainants, including the need to retrieve documents from them, such as proofs of purchase, bank statements, vehicle hire records, company phone bills and/or any other documents which would provide evidence to substantiate their claim. It was explained that this must be done before approaches were made to any Garda members about whom they had complained,” the report states.
The report then states that the complainant confirmed by email that ‘they would no longer be cooperating with the investigation’ but, notwithstanding this GSOC proceeded and interviewed a senior officer alleged to have ‘requested the supply of alcohol’. It also interviewed other gardaí named in the complaints.
It also reviewed findings of earlier investigations undertaken by An Garda Síochána, into the complaints.
The report notes that since these allegations were in the public domain they had ‘the potential to undermine public confidence in the Garda Síochána, as well as affect the reputation of others’. “We hope that publicly explaining the proportionate, fair and independent investigation of this matter will promote confidence of members of the public and of the Garda Síochána in police oversight in this country,” it states.
Welcoming the findings, Shell E&P Ireland’s Managing Director, Michael Crothers, said: “We have always treated the OSSL allegations with the utmost gravity, because they are completely contrary to our company’s business principles.
“These allegations have impacted negatively and unfairly on members of staff and on local residents. SEPIL co-operated fully with the GSOC investigation and we welcome the findings confirmed to us in writing.”
Responding yesterday to a series of questions by The Mayo News, Mr Kane wrote: “GSOC found no evidence of alcohol supply to Mayo and Athlone police officers. They did not find that no alcohol had been supplied . OSSL don’t know who GSOC addressed for the required level of proof.” He told The Irish Times he was ‘not surprised’ by the GSOC report findings, as ‘it is what we expected’. He said that his company ‘would not rest until we get a satisfactory outcome’.

Background
LAST October The Mayo News revealed that the garda watchdog was set to open an investigation into the OSSL allegations, after senior garda, Supt Thomas Murphy, forwarded his findings into the matter.
This was the second investigation by An Garda Síochána; an earlier examination of the claims, and an internal investigation by Shell, had found no evidence to corroborate the claims. However, Mr Kane, co-owner of OSSL with Mr Neil Rooney, has consistently said his company was owed the monies for the 2007 delivery.
He confirmed last summer that OSSL was paid by Shell for smaller amounts of alcohol delivered to the garda station before Christmas 2005 and 2006. Moreover, he has claimed his company was also employed to provide ‘sweeteners’ for the local community and that these ‘accommodation services’ included ‘a tennis court, cookers, television sets, agricultural equipment, school fees, home improvements, garden centre visits and forestry equipment’.
Kane claims that invoices for such ‘sweeteners’ were shredded and that the accepted practise was for no ‘traceability’.
On the other hand, Shell said that on August 2, 2012, OSSL had in fact signed a final settlement of all claims and contractual matters in the presence of its legal advisers.
The company also confirmed that three weeks later OSSL sent an invoice for the alleged December 2007 booze deliveries.