‘Irish Ponzi’ boss gave cash to politicians
Custom House’s Mulholland donated to senators
Published 06/11/2011 | 08:22
A DIRECTOR of failed investment firm Custom House Capital (CHC) made political donations to two senior politicians in the Labour Party and Fine Gael in 2007, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
John Mulholland, a director of CHC — which a High Court judge said last month came across “as a sort of Irish Ponzi scheme” in an inspectors’ 198- page report on the company — donated €1,000 to former senators Alex White and Eugene Regan, according to disclosures to the Standards In Public Office Commission.
The Garda Fraud Squad is now investigating CHC, which went into liquidation last month after inspectors uncovered the “systemic and deliberate misuse” of more than €56m of assets and cash belonging to clients.
An adult with special needs who was relying on money invested in the fund that was left to him by his parents is among the 1,500 clients who face losing their money. Some clients are understood to be facing losses of between €4m and €5m.
This newspaper revealed last week that some client money was invested in property in Berlin and some went to pay the day-to-day bills of property development projects without clients’ knowledge or approval.
Alex White — a barrister and former RTE producer who worked on The Late Late Show for four years, was elected to the Seanad in 2007 and is now a Labour TD for Dublin South — confirmed having received the donation. “Myself and Mr Mulholland have been personal friends since the Eighties, when we both studied law in King’s Inns. The donation was a personal one, although the cheque was from a company account, European Pensioner Trustee Company. In 2007, neither he nor the company were noteworthy.
“As far as I was concerned, it was just a cheque from John. At that time, I had no knowledge of any of his business dealings,” said Mr White, who in June was elected to the key Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. A solicitor for Mr Mulholland said: “Mr Mulholland absolutely denies any suggestion that any donation was corruptly made, or that it was from any proceeds or funds from CHC or clients of CHC.
He wishes to confirm that the donations were personal donations.” Mr Mulholland owns the European Pensioneer Trustee Company with his wife and fellow director Ruth Woods. The company is based in the same office as CHC, at No 9, Merrion Square in Dublin. Last month he told the Irish Times that some client funds administered by the company were directed into property investments by CHC, but that all of this cash was accounted for.
Former Fine Gael senator Eugene Regan, a practising barrister and non-executive director of Goldman Sachs (Dublin and Luxembourg) and Nasdaq (Ireland) did not return calls last night. Separately, the Sunday Independent has also learned that accountants and advisers Horwath Bastow Charlton (HBC) are now overseeing an investment by clients of CHC believed to be in the region of €1m in total in Sandyfordbased solar cell firm SolarPrint, where CHC chief executive Harry Cassidy has been a nominee director since 2009.
HBC is expected to appoint a new nominee director, according to SolarPrint chie