Business Irish

Monday 19 March 2018

Inspectors accessed my private files, says Clery's Deirdre Foley

New Clerys' chief hits back at 'extremely serious allegations made against me personally', writes Dearbhail McDonald, Sarah McCabe and Ronald Quinlan

Allegations were made of a secret plan called ‘Project Clock’
Allegations were made of a secret plan called ‘Project Clock’

Dearbhail McDonald, Sarah McCabe and Ronald Quinlan

Property developer Deirdre Foley has claimed that inspectors appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission to investigate the redundancy of 460 workers at Clerys department store, forwarded material from her laptop "while trying to erase the evidence of doing so".

Foley, the D2 co-founder and a director of Natrium - the vehicle which completed a takeover of the iconic Dublin department store last year - has also claimed that the WRC's inspectors accessed legally privileged (confidential) communications relating to the controversial purchase of the iconic Dublin store.

Foley has maintained a prolonged silence over the Clerys affair, which saw the Department of Social Protection pay €2m of taxpayers' money to staff left unemployed.

But she has now hit back at claims that she, D2 or Natrium took the decision to apply to wind-up the company operating Clerys, or to make its employees redundant.

Foley was responding in court papers to claims by James Kelly - one of the WRC inspectors - that Clerys was bought following a number of secret meetings as part of a plan dubbed 'Project Clock'.

The inspectors seized documents and computers, including her laptop, from D2's offices last May.

However Foley and D2 are challenging the powers of the inspectors, whom the businesswoman claims are engaged in "a far-reaching exercise in accessing information and materials which have no relevance to their investigation and which exercise is not supported by their statutory powers."

Foley, who denies D2 was given exclusive bidding status as a potential buyer of Clerys, rejected claims that the High Court was misled when an application to wind-up OCS Operations Ltd (the company that operated Clerys) came before the High Court hours after the takeover was completed.

And she defended obtaining legal advices and carrying out due diligence relating to "a potential transaction" - while insisting the transaction remained a potential one, right up until the early hours of June 12, 2015, when it finally completed.

Kelly claimed the decision to wind up the company was not taken on June 12. However Foley, who strenuously denies liquidators were engaged prior to the wind-up hearing, says there were points "right up until the end where the transaction may never have completed".

"The transaction did not complete until June 12, 2015," said Foley, who rejects "in the strongest possible terms" the inspectors' claims.

"It did not complete at that time for commercial reasons, which remain confidential and do not form part of any proper investigation".

The case continues in the High Court on Tuesday.

Sunday Indo Business

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business