The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation has started an inquiry into an alleged irregularity at Vodafone (9th item). The police were called in after an internal investigation suspected that a large sum of money may have been misappropriated.
On the face of it there is nothing unusual about this story. Suspected crime; police called in; investigation: If a crime was indeed committed then the next step will be the justice system, possibly resulting in severe penalties perhaps even prison. That’s the way things are done in every accountable democracy in the world.
But Ireland is not an accountable democracy; white collar crime is very rarely investigated by the police. Irish financial institutions, for example, rob their customers on a regular basis with confident impunity. The so called Irish Financial Regulator never acts against these rogue institutions. When caught, they are merely required to return stolen monies.
What is it about this alleged crime that is different from the many other white collar crimes that are never acted on? A quick comparison may help to provide an answer.
On the 16th March last, the RTE Investigative Unit reported that a customer had been defrauded of about €585,000 by Friends First. The company, like Vodafone, carried out an internal investigation and found that a crime had been committed. But unlike Vodafone, they did not report the matter to the police.
Instead, they informed the Financial Regulator who also decided not to inform the police. The Friends First fraudster was quietly disqualified from the provisions of financial services for a period of five years. No action was taken against the company. The customer/victim was ignored.
The crucial difference seems to be that in the Vodafone case the company is the alleged victim whereas in the Friends First fraud it was the company who defrauded the customer. The comparison speaks volumes.