CAB wins ruling on €4.6m Ponzi cash
Published 22/12/2011 | 05:00
THE High Court has ruled that €4.65m seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) from a Donegal-based suspected fraudster is the proceeds of crime.
The money was uncovered in 11 bank accounts in the State, Belgium, Estonia and Luxembourg following a year-long investigation by the CAB, the garda fraud bureau and international authorities.
The order was made against French national Francois De Dietrich, also known as 'Swanky Franky', who ran a firm registered in Ballybofey, Co Donegal. A substantial number of investors, who lost money in his business, were from Co Donegal.
They will now be paid back some of their investment on a pro-rata basis when PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was appointed liquidator on both sides of the Border to Etic Solutions Ltd, owned by Mr De Dietrich, has completed its inquiries.
Mr De Dietrich operated what is known as a Ponzi scheme where investors are invited to put sums of money into his business, which purported to sell liquidated stock, and then receive high returns within a short period.
During initial transactions, several investors, who put in sums of up to €50,000 each in the scheme, were given back their money with 30pc to 40pc interest, within six weeks.
This boosted the reputation of the business and led to a large number of interested parties investing in the scheme.
A High Court hearing last December gave the go-ahead to the CAB to freeze money held in five accounts here, along with three in Estonia, two in Belgium and one in Luxembourg.
The accounts were held by Etic Solutions Ltd and other companies associated with Mr De Dietrich.
The probe, which also involved the PSNI, the Financial Services Authority in the UK and police forces in Estonia, Belgium and Luxembourg, identified 400 investors in Etic Solutions.
Inquiries established that many of the investors were still awaiting a return.
The Ballybofey company was put in liquidation and Mr De Dietrich left Donegal. He is believed to be somewhere in France.
In January, a Belfast judge ordered that Mr De Dietrich be jailed for 18 months for failing to comply with a series of court orders and being in contempt of court.
He failed to turn up in court and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Now the High Court in Dublin has accepted that the money seized by the bureau was obtained through criminal activity.
Mr Justice Kevin Feeney also made an order allowing for the payment of €2.68m from the frozen funds to provide some returns to the investors.
Mr De Dietrich did not appear in court but a solicitor acting for him said that his client, although consenting to the making of order, denied any wrongdoing.
He also denied that he was living a lavish lifestyle and he reserved his position in regard to taking defamation proceedings regarding himself and corporate entities.