TAX authorities have taken control of a company linked to the controversial Unicorn restaurant in Dublin.
The company, Vino Classico, took over the glamorous eatery in Dublin city centre in 2011 but was later struck off for failing to file its accounts on time.
Now the High Court has ordered that Vino Classico, which had operated the restaurant in 2011 and 2012, must be resurrected or "restored" – but only so the Revenue Commissioners can nominate their own liquidator.
Accountant Myles Kirby of Martin Ferris Associates was named as liquidator of Vino Classico on Tuesday.
The Unicorn has been one of the most fashionable restaurants in Dublin for decades, playing host to the likes of former US President Bill Clinton and rock star Bono. But it has been mired in financial troubles in recent years.
In May, the high-society haunt closed its doors for a period, after a visit from gardai investigating a possible breach of the licensing act. The two directors of Vino Classico are Pia Bang, a businesswoman and mother of the disgraced Stokes brothers, along with restaurateur Georgio Casari.
A struck-off company is not allowed to trade. Directors who have run a business before it was struck off face the threat of being barred from acting as directors again, and if a business is liquidated after being struck off, its assets can be seized by the State. Mr Casari backed the petition from the Revenue Commissioners.
The two directors were ordered in court to bring the company filings for their business up to date by the end of the year and given 21 days to prepare a Statement of Affairs setting out all of the assets and debts of the company.
On Monday, Mr Kirby was also appointed as liquidator of a second company called Citywest Hire Ltd, where Mr Casari and Jeff Stokes, who is the husband of Pia Bang, are directors.
When the original company behind the Unicorn went into liquidation in 2011 suppliers were left with €2m of unpaid debt. Suppliers only learnt at a creditors' meeting that the lease for the Unicorn premises had been transferred from the heavily indebted original company – Springmanor – to Vino Classico, a new debt-free business, prior to the liquidation.
Vino Classico then took over the Unicorn but was struck off by the Companies Office for failing to file an annual return.
Springmanor had been owned by Mr Casari and Mr Stokes.