Irish

Saturday 2 August 2014

Marley – 'If anyone wants to bankrupt me, go ahead'

TOM LYONS

Published 13/01/2013|12:52

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PHILIP Marley, the property entrepreneur, celebrated Christmas in style with his girlfriend Dana Wilkey, the American reality-TV star.

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Excitedly, Wilkey posted a photo on Twitter for her 39,200 followers of their threestorey London townhouse sprinkled with fairly lights.

"I love pissing off my neighbours with my in your face lights on London #uk #vegasinchelsea #loudamerican," Wilkey remarked.

However, it's not just their neighbours who are annoyed.

In Dublin and London, Marley is fighting on all fronts -- everyone from the landlords of properties he manages to his former business partners.

He is even fighting with his former accountants.

On Friday, Copsey Murray Chartered Accountants, the former auditors to Ely Property Group, the property-management company which made Marley a multimillionaire chief executive in his 30s, moved to wind up his business in Ireland.

Copsey Murray is owed fees by Ely but the decision to try and wind up the group came only after the auditors discovered that a key Marley company called Ely Properties had filed a set of accounts with the Companies Registration Office (CRO).

This used Copsey Murray's auditor registration number (ARN), despite the accounts, which were signed by Marley, stating that the firm's "independent auditors" were now a company called Shrewsbury Accounting based in London.

Copsey Murray made a complaint to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, alleging that Ely had wrongly used its ARN in order to file a set of accounts that it had not audited.

On further investigation, it has also turned out that Shrewsbury Accounting is not an independent auditor, despite providing a three-page "independent auditors" report, saying that it was.

In fact, it is a company owned by Marley himself, which was set up to provide book-keeping services to his various business interests.

Contacted on Friday, Marley said the issue of wrongly using Copsey Murray's ARN was a matter for his advisor Gerard Murray of GM Advisors, who had filed Ely Properties accounts on his behalf.

"That is not my concern," he said, "you need to speak to my financial advisors." Marley admitted that Shrewsbury was "not an auditor" and said it was "a mistake" to describe them as such.

The experienced businessman said he had now appointed an actual auditing firm in London to file fresh accounts.

"This was a simple error," he said, "it is a storm in a teacup." Murray said he had assumed it was okay to use Copsey Murray's ARN as they had been Ely's auditors in the past.

"This is nobody's fault," Murray said, "I have been in touch with the ODCE and the CRO and they are totally satisfied with what I said." Murray said he had not read Ely Properties accounts before filing them, so he didn't notice that a company called Shrewsbury was now described as its auditors.

"We had nothing to do with the accounts. We had no involvement with them other than to file them," he added.

Copsey Murray did not respond to requests for comment.

Separately, Marley is also coming under pressure in the New Year from the landlords of 23 properties which were managed by Ely Properties Ltd. The apartments in the Forge and Steelworks Development in Foley Street, Dublin are rented to the Irish Catholic Housing Association.

The ICHA has been paying rents to Ely but the landlords of the properties are insisting that Marley's company has not been passing this money to them for months.

Marley admitted that he was in a dispute with the landlords of the properties, who he described disparagingly as "property speculators".

"We have carried that building for years," Marley insisted.

He said that Ely had spent large amounts of money on maintaining the apartments.

"We don't owe them a dime," he said.

If Copsey Murray succeeds in winding the Ely Group up, its liquidator will de facto have access to all of its bank accountants. Its liquidator will then be able to determine its income and expenditure.

Marley said he had done nothing wrong. "I will vigorously fight this winding-up order," he said, "Ely is in winddown in Ireland but we want to do it ourselves.

"I am not a nun or a priest" Marley said. "I've no problem being as hard as nails when it comes to business." In the UK Marley is being sued for £2m by Maven, a private- equity firm, over a student- accommodation joint venture in London.

His former business partners have questioned his actions and spending while he was chief executive, included €250,000 that Marley says was used to refurbish apartments, as well as company credit-card spending in Las Vegas, tanning salons and mystery payments to a Mayfair pharmacy.

Marley has denied all wrongdoing. He also owes IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, €10m in relation to property investments.

"If anybody wants to bankrupt me, go ahead," Marley said. "I will survive and I will bounce back." As he rolls with the punches, Marley shows no signs of giving up.

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