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No precedent for bid to have inspector appointed to Christmas tree company, High Court hears


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An investor’s application seeking the appointment of a taxpayer-funded inspector to a Christmas tree company is “without precedent”, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) said there does not seem to be a previous instance where the applicant pursuing the appointment of an inspector to a firm was someone other than the ODCE or the Justice Minister.

In departing from the status quo, this application concerning WFS Forestry Ireland Ltd is “breaking new ground”, said Neil Steen SC, for the ODCE.

The “overwhelming” evidence, said counsel, is that this company is “hopelessly insolvent” on a balance sheet basis and because it is unable to pay its debts as they fall due.

A more appropriate approach to the situation, said counsel, might be the appointment of a liquidator.

The ODCE was not opposing the application, but it is interested in the development of the law that may derive from this case.

Mr Steen urged the court to be mindful of whether the issues raised are a public or private concern. The taxpayer foots the bill of an inspection, although there is potential to recoup costs, while the company’s creditors, at least to some extent, assume the burden of a liquidation, he said.

The applicant in this case, John Kearney, and the 17 other alleged investors supporting his application are primarily interested in seeing their money returned, said Mr Steen.

They invested in a limited company in the hope of seeing substantial returns, and there is a risk associated with that, he said.

“The applicant seeks to transfer that risk from the creditors to the taxpayer,” he added.

The investors say WFS Forestry, which has registered offices in the Fitzwilliam Business Centre, 26/27 Pembroke Street, Dublin 2, failed to deliver returns they were promised. They claim there were misrepresentations made to them and that they were sold stakes in forestry lands that do not exist. The claims are denied.

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