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Garda at centre of investigation had phone wiped, Disclosures Tribunal hears

The tribunal is hearing from Garda Nicholas Keogh.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

THE GARDA AT the centre of an investigation alleging his collusion with an Athlone heroin-dealer had his phone wiped before investigators seized it, a tribunal has heard.

The Disclosures Tribunal is hearing from Garda Nicholas Keogh who alleges that a senior member of the Athlone drugs unit, identified to the tribunal as Garda A, was in an improper relationship with a heroin dealer, identified as Ms B and described as having a then-estimated €2,500 a week income.

The tribunal, chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, is investigating how Garda Keogh was treated after he made his protected disclosure in 2014.

Garda Keogh has made ten complaints to the tribunal about “serious and deliberate flaws with regard to this investigation”.

His complaints include delays, missing evidence, failures to suspend suspects and inappropriate circumstances for taking statements that discouraged people from coming forward.

Phone 

The tribunal heard that on 9 May 2015 an investigations team which included former Assistant and Acting Commissioner Donall Ó Cualáin and senior detective Declan Mulcahy was set up to investigate Garda Keogh’s allegations of collusion.

The team were interviewing gardaí and taking statements in the station while Garda A was on duty. Garda Keogh told Judge Ryan that this was “insane” and like something from the comedy film “Police Academy”.

“Parts of the investigation were thorough but there were a lot of problems,” Garda Keogh told Judge Ryan.

He said that when Garda A’s mobile phone was seized on 13 June 2015, it had been wiped. He said this was evidence that Garda A was “tipped off”.

“He had obvious prior knowledge, Garda A, that his phone was to be seized. Clearly. No doubt. Someone must have tipped him off. I don’t know who but I assume so, if all the info is wiped,” he said.

Judge Ryan said; “Could it not be that he worked it out? Could it not be that he looked at the TV and saw Deputy [Luke Ming] Flanagan speaking and thought that something was afoot?”

Deputy Flanagan named Garda Keogh in the Dáil as a whistleblower on 8 May 2014, the day of Garda Keogh’s protected disclosure.

0132 Disclosures Tribunal_90582845 Garda whistleblower Nicholas Keogh Source: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Garda Keogh said that the phone was completely blank, with no phone numbers or any other information.

“Garda A was also capable of deleting the information on the phone,” he said. He said that the phone was a “huge” part of the investigation that could reveal contact between Garda A and Ms B.

Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, noted that if Deputy Flanagan had not gone public that “the suspect might not have been aware” of a possible investigation.

The witness said the TD had told him “if I was not named in the Dáil that they would go after you but if you have it on public record it is for your protection”.

Garda Keogh said the day he told Detective Mulcahy about phones being a priority the phone was seized.

McGuinness asked if any other evidence disappeared or was disappearing around the time he talked to Detective Mulcahy.

Garda Keogh: “Yes, there was commercial opium, a couple of kilos of it, that was stored in the same room as some DVDs.”

Garda Keogh will continue to give his evidence on Monday.

Additional evidence

In other evidence, the taking of statements was also complained of by Garda Keogh.

At one point Judge Ryan told the witness that a complaint that gardaí had undermined their own investigation into the collusion allegations was a “very serious allegation”.

“The investigations team were interviewing gardaí and taking statements in the station while the suspected Garda was on duty. That was insane. You wouldn’t see that in Police Academy,” he said.

“They had the phones and addresses of every Garda there and then they decide to do it in the station while he is present? It’s insane.”

The judge asked if he thought this an effort to ” to suppress honesty” in the investigation if members were intimidated by Garda A’s presence.

“Yes,” said Garda Keogh. “Why else? They couldn’t be that negligent. It’s too big a thing to be that negligent.

“What subsequently transpires is that they are trying to suppress people coming forward and that leads to problems with the investigation, if they wanted to cover it up.”

Garda Keogh claimed that he believed that investigation chief, Assistant Commissioner Ó Cualáin, had appointed Superintendent Patrick Murray, in March 2015, to Athlone “to get me out and to leave them free to get it covered up and then promote Supt Murray”.

Judge Ryan pointed out that if that was the case then why did they wait until March the following year after Garda Keogh’s protected disclosure.

“It’s a very serious allegation,” said Judge Ryan. “That they come down to investigate and at the same time they are trying to undermine it and did they even achieve what you say they had set out to do?”

“I don’t think so,” said Garda Keogh.

Garda Keogh said his allegation was not against the team but against Assistant Commissioner Ó Cualáin who Garda Keogh said was concerned about the investigation “being very, very bad for An Garda Síochána as an organisation”.

The tribunal has been told that Assistant Commissioner Ó Cualáin and the investigation team will answer the complaints in detail and that they reject the allegations.

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