A claims handler pleaded guilty in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this week to defrauding AXA Insurance of €1.1m (£750,000) over a five-year period.

Daniel O'Halloran, aged 52, of Finglas, Dublin, who worked at the company's head office in the Irish capital, was remanded in custody to await sentence later this month for what the judge described as "an extremely serious crime". His counsel, pleading for leniency, said his client expected to be able to repay AXA around €600,000 (£409,275).

The court was told that O'Halloran would reopen claims that had been settled and change the names on the application forms to those of his wife and a male friend, who had no knowledge of the scam.

He would then wait until colleagues had left their computer terminals open and, using their identification, authorise a cheque for payment of the claim.

The court heard, he made an average of three to four false claims per month, defrauding the company of a total of €1.1m over five years. O'Halloran, who had no previous convictions, was finally caught through a routine audit and co-operated with the investigation, even detailing how he had spent the money, said a Garda detective. The officer added: "Most of it was frittered away."