Ireland's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ("CCPC") has published details of an on-going investigation into potential bid-rigging in the procurement of publicly-funded transport services in Munster and Leinster.
The CCPC announced that it had conducted a remarkable 20 dawn raids/inspections in one month.
It is equally remarkable that the CCPC invited members of the public to seek immunity from prosecution in return for information.
The CCPC stated in a media release that it had opened an investigation in 2016 following a detailed examination of a complaint which it had received.
The CCPC were accompanied on these inspections by members of the police force (An Garda Síochána) as well.
The development is noteworthy for several reasons including:
- the CCPC announced to the public about an investigation which was not otherwise in the public domain. Traditionally, it confirms an investigation only after one of the subjects of the investigation discloses it but it is not known whether there was such a disclosure already in the public domain about this case;
- the CCPC used the opportunity of the media release to encourage "any individual who has evidence to come forward and contact them on a dedicated confidential helpline";
- the CCPC also reminded the public that the Cartel Immunity Programme (the "CIP") operated by the CCPC, "in conjunction with Director of Public Prosecutions, means that a member of a cartel may avoid prosecution if they are the first member to come forward, reveal their involvement in illegal cartel activity and fully co-operate with the investigation." This was a public invitation for people to present themselves and potentially benefit from the CIP;
- the number of inspections – 20 in one month – is very significant as is the fact that news of so many inspections did not enter the public domain generally until the CCPC published information about the case.
The CCPC stated in its media release that as its investigation is ongoing, the CCPC cannot provide any further comment on this matter at this time but the fact that the CCPC announced it in this way is newsworthy in its own right.