Thursday 27 October 2016

Man who siphoned €1m from business and put into his own bank account disqualified as company director

Published 28/07/2016 | 16:15

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A MAN who siphoned off nearly €1m from his business paypal account to his own bank account has been disqualified by the High Court from acting a company director for five years.

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Alan Barrett (38), a director of wound up online event registration website Eventelephant, had deprived charities and event organisers of hard earned income "which the court cannot acknowledge sufficiently through its words", Mr Justice Tony O'Connor said.

Mr Barrett, of White Ash, Ashbourne, Co Meath, was joint owner of the company, which operated a self-service online event registration website allowing customers to use the site to create their own web pages to advertise and sell tickets. 

Eventelephant earned commission from processing payments for those tickets. Along with charities, its users included high profile sports organisations like Arsenal and Newcastle football clubs and airlines such as British Airways.

The judge pointed out the software developed for the company should have been designed to direct payments to a trust account or to the account of the event organiser. But the €967,276 which was "siphoned off" by Mr Barrett instead went into a paypal account he (Barrett) controlled and then on to his (Barrett's) own bank account, he said.

The judge ruled that while no allegation of dishonesty was made against Mr Barrett's co-director, Ron Downey (69), a UK citizen, he would accede to an application from the liquidators of the company to impose sanction on him too.

He ordered Mr Downey be restricted from involvement in a company for five years unless such a firm has a share capital of not less than €500,000, if it is a public liability company, or €100,000 in the case of any other company.

Mr Justice O'Connor said Mr Downey never explained if and when he sought proper assurances about company income and he should have know what the volume of sales was. 

The repeated "vacuous excuses" offered by his co-director, Mr Barrett, in referring to "chargeback difficulties" - and which gave rise to a media exposé in 2013 - were acepted by Mr Downey without delving further.

 The judge said "naivety and total ignorance of potential deception" does not excuse the necessity for directors like Mr Downey to seek more than an oral assurance without further inquiry.

In relation to Mr Barrett, who assets and accounts had been frozen by the court in August 2013, the judge said he had not disputed any of the facts asserted by the liquidators, Joseph Walsh and Neil Hughes.   He had also pleaded guilty in another court to failing to make proper PAYE and VAT returns.

The judge was satisfied in view of the undisputed wrongful actions of Mr Barrett that he should be disqualified. 

As there was no evidence of aggravating circumstances which could affect the public in the future, he was prepared to apply the minimum disqualification of five years.

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