There has been a substantial drop in the number of people convicted of white collar crime in the seven years up to 2010, in spite of an increase in the number of offences.

The figures were released by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter following a parliamentary question by Labour TD Robert Dowds.

They also show that there are no solicitors or barristers, and only two full-time accountants employed by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

Garda sources said the force cannot hire professionals because of the Government-imposed public service recruitment embargo.

The figures show that the number of people convicted of white collar crime dropped from 579 - just under a quarter of the offences in 2003 - to 178 in 2010, with less than 15% of the offences committed in 2010.

However, there was also an increase in the number of white collar crime offences over the same period.

Mr Dowds said that even though he supported the cutbacks in the Garda budget, he believed the Commissioner should allocate resources to increase the number of professionals in the Fraud Bureau.

However, he said he could not say from what other areas of policing the resources should be taken from.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is due before the Oireachtas Justice Committee this week.