Saturday 22 October 2016

'I've shamed my family' - accountant who took €161,000 from charity

Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30

'Unreservedly apologised': accountant Greg Walsh
'Unreservedly apologised': accountant Greg Walsh

An accountant has admitted misappropriating €161,000 in charity funds after his business got into financial difficulty and he ran up debts of close to €1m.

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Greg Walsh (67) said his "fraudulent activities" had brought "shame and humiliation" on his family.

The cash was misappropriated from the Carline Learning Centre, a State-funded organisation supporting disadvantaged teenagers in west Dublin, where Mr Walsh had been treasurer.

In a High Court filing, Mr Walsh said he "unreservedly apologised" for taking the cash, which was supposed to have been used to cover tax and other liabilities of the charity.

In an affidavit, Mr Walsh told the court his office had been raided by gardaí following a complaint from the charity and he intended to plead guilty should any criminal charges be brought against him.

He revealed he had debts of €924,000 and just €5,367 in his bank accounts.

Read more: Audit raised suspicions at charity that its treasurer allegedly paid €161k into his own bank accounts

Mr Walsh, a low-profile accountant with past links to Fine Gael and business addresses in Kimmage and Celbridge, has offered the charity the proceeds of his life assurance policy as a token of his remorse.

Carline issued proceedings against him earlier this month after an investigation by its auditors found discrepancies in its books.

A report by the auditors concluded that €161,337 had been misappropriated by Mr Walsh by way of cheques made out to his company, Walsh and Associates, and two other firms.

Some €72,309 of this was supposed to have been paid to the Revenue Commissioners.

Carline's chairman John McKernan previously told the High Court that Mr Walsh had been treasurer for a number of years and had been completely trusted.

When challenged about the discrepancies, Mr Walsh told the board there had been a mix-up over payments to Revenue which had since been rectified.

But the charity moved swiftly after concluding a letter of explanation penned by Mr Walsh was "a work of fiction". It sought orders, to which Mr Walsh consented, requiring him to repay the cash and disclose what had become of the diverted funds.

Its board is now focused on ensuring the charity survives the controversy and maintains its educational services for marginalised teenagers.

Read more: Accountant to meet charity over 'missing' €161,000 in funds

In his affidavit, Mr Walsh said: "I must regretfully inform the court and the plaintiff that I have misappropriated the sum of €161,000 or thereabouts from the plaintiff."

Mr Walsh said he was in the process of verifying the exact amount when his business premises and residence were visited by members of the Lucan district detective unit.

Mr Walsh said he had been advised by his solicitor of his right to silence.

However, he said: "I say it is my intention to plead guilty to any criminal charges that must inevitably be brought and that all I can now do is apologise to the plaintiff and my other clients who are at a loss.

"I will co-operate with any inquiries in this regard."

He said that until mid-2014 he had traded as an accountant and bookkeeper without any breach of his fiduciary duties.

But he then found himself in a situation where he had promised clients investment returns which did not materialise and the situation "spiralled out of control".

"I regretfully used client funds to repay existing clients and honour financial commitments to clients and pay my way," he said.

Mr Walsh revealed that two clients sued him last year for a liability of around €560,000.

As a result he was obliged to sell his family home in Celbridge for €351,000, with €291,000 of the proceeds paid to his debtors. Also surrendered was his beneficial interest, worth €200,000, in a property in Rosslare. The litigation was settled out of court.

Mr Walsh said his wife and immediate family had "absolutely no knowledge of the extent of my fraudulent activities".

"I told them I had debt and that I was legitimately trading my way out of my negative financial position," he said.

"I have not been candid with them regarding how bad matters were and I can only apologise to my family for the shame and humiliation I have brought to their door through their association with me."

The case returns to court today.

Irish Independent

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