Belfast Telegraph

Benefits fraud crackdown demanded

Middle-ranking gardai have demanded a specialist unit within the force to crack down on social welfare fraud.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) said a dedicated benefits fraud team would save the public purse as much as 300 million euro.

Sergeant Padraic Tully, on the Agsi national executive, said the unit would work with the Department of Social Protection to weed out prolific and repeat offenders in particular.

"There are people who are engaged in career benefits - specialising in the fraud of social welfare and benefits," he said.

"There are career criminals out there and lots of them."

The Athlone-based sergeant said a specialist unit would not take a large number of officers to staff.

Speaking at the Agsi annual conference, he refused to speculate on a budget for setting it up, but insisted it would be "very cost effective" for the exchequer.

Sgt Tully said a multi-agency approach was needed to combat benefits fraud.

But Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan dismissed the idea, saying his force was already working with social welfare officers to stamp out the practice.

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