Taoiseach warns government has no power to call in gardaí over tracker scandal

The Independent Alliance has called for a full criminal investigation

Taoiseach warns government has no power to call in gardaí over tracker scandal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings in Dublin | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Independent Alliance has called for a full criminal investigation into the tracker mortgage scandal.

In a press statement, the five member alliance warned that allegations of fraud at the banks merit a criminal investigation.

It comes after the Central Bank said it had spoken to gardaí about the scandal twice – but had not reached the required burden of proof to make a criminal complaint. 

However, speaking before the Independent Alliance statement today, the Taoiseach said the government did not have the power to call in the gardaí.

“We are a democracy,” he said. “It is not the case that the Taoiseach, the former Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice can send in the gardaí or send in the fraud squad.”

“The way it works is that somebody makes a complaint to the gardaí, the gardaí consider the complaint and decide whether or not they need to carry out an investigation or carry out a raid as necessary.”

He said around 200,000 tracker mortgage customer need to be returned to the correct rate and compensated over the coming months – if the banks wish to avoid sanction from the government.

The banks are due to release statements this afternoon following their meetings with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Yesterday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs insisted the gardaí would take “appropriate action” if they believe a crime has been committed.

Class action

This evening the house will debate a Fianna Fáil motion calling for customers affected by the scandal to be allowed to take a class action against the banks involved.

A class action lawsuit would see all those affected collectively represented by one member – with the outcome of the case affecting all those involved.

Should the motion be accepted, it would mark the first class action suit in Ireland.

The Private Members Motion also calls for all repossession cases related to trackers to be halted and for the government to consider voting against the reappointment of directors.

The Finance Minister has pledged to make a statement updating the house on the outcome of his meetings with the heads of the main banks during the debate.

He has also called a press conference on the matter at his department this afternoon. 

Compensation

Earlier this week, the governor of the Central Bank Philip Lane said the majority of those affected by the scandal should be repaid by Christmas.

The statements from the banks later today are expected to provide a timeline for the repayments.

David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Association has warned that a “fudge solution” will not suffice for either the government or the banks.

“I think they have a lot on the table and a lot at stake today,” he said.

“I think Paschal Donohoe has his initial early time reputation as Minister for Finance on the table today unless there is some clear progress.

“Not just words but actual progress – and I don’t know what that is going to be.”

Clarity on what might happen next regarding the investigation is expected this afternoon - with statements from Minister Donohoe, the banks and the Central Bank all on the way.