Probe launched into con that cost investors millions
Published 19/03/2012 | 05:00
THE Central Bank has launched an investigation into a finance company after Irish investors lost millions of euro in a scam.
The Financial Regulator is examining how a product dozens of people invested in turned out to be a sophisticated con.
The investors, mostly from Co Donegal, put up to €250,000 each into what appeared to be a legitimate investment portfolio being run from offices in Barcelona.
Those who handed over money did so on the recommendation of O'Sullivan Financial in Letterkenny.
The financial adviser there, Mark O'Sullivan, was also taken in by the scam and is said to be "devastated" by the loss of his clients' money.
"He is a totally innocent party and lost money in the scheme as well," said a friend.
The conmen behind the scam told investors they were speculating with their money on the foreign currency markets.
They even set up a website with an iPhone app -- fx-root.com -- where investors could log on to see how their investment was working.
But the graphs showing their 'trades' were all fake and the scamsters fled Barcelona taking up to €10m with them. Around €3m came from Irish investors and involved both cash and pension investments.
"We have made formal complaints to the Financial Regulator at the Central Bank to ask for an investigation," said one victim in Co Donegal.
Another victim told the Irish Independent: "I was told by Mr O'Sullivan that I would never lose more than 15pc of my investment, but because this was a criminal fraud I've lost every cent.
"We have taken legal advice and want to ask the Financial Regulator about how these schemes should operate."
Meanwhile, police in Spain, Ireland and Slovakia are now including a scam in Slovenia in their investigations.
The exact same fraud was committed in Ljubljana in 2008, using a website and offering returns of up to 10pc per month.
Like the Barcelona scam, the Slovenian scheme was also operated by two men -- one Dutch and one UK national -- with thousands of Slovenians losing money.
"This fraud may well be linked," said one source. "The same methods were used, with computer log-ins for clients to check their investments."
However, sources said the Regulator is liaising with the Financial Ombudsman on how to proceed with the formal investigation.
Mr O'Sullivan refused to comment but a friend told the Irish Independent: "Mark will co-operate fully with any inquiry. He lost his own money in the scam."