Friday 27 April 2018

Swiss lawyers hired to find missing businessman Peter Conlon over €3.8m collapse debt

Businessman Peter Conlon. Photo: Fergal Phillips.
Businessman Peter Conlon. Photo: Fergal Phillips.
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Swiss lawyers have been hired to chase down missing businessman Peter Conlon, whose Ammado fundraising platform collapsed owing €3.8m to charities, the Irish Independent understands.

The liquidator of the Irish online platform has taken formal steps to locate the missing businessman behind the firm who is believed to be in jail in Switzerland.

One-time Entrepreneur of the Year, Mr Conlon is believed to have been in custody in Switzerland since before Christmas.

He's the key player in the collapse of the Ammado platform, and of Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services Ltd, the Dublin company behind the service, which is in liquidation.

But court-appointed liquidator Myles Kirby of Kirby Healy has been unable to serve papers on the businessman, or even to find out exactly where he is from Swiss authorities, due to the country's privacy laws.

Impasse

It is thought a local Swiss law firm has now been hired to help break the impasse.

Once Mr Conlon is tracked down, he can be formally served Irish court papers by Swiss legal authorities under mutual assistance treaties.

Engaging lawyers means overcoming the difficulties in contacting Mr Conlon will come at a financial cost to creditors and charities of his collapsed business.

It will eat into the around €357,000 that was in the business when the Revenue Commissioners successfully petitioned to have a liquidator appointed in January.

However, the aim is to serve papers formally notifying Mr Conlon of a worldwide freezing order over his assets issued by the High Court here in January, in hopes of recovering any funds he has overseas.

It is understood investigators are looking into whether assets are held by Mr Conlon in Malta, Belgium and the Isle of Man.

Any assets, if they do exist, might be clawed back by the liquidator for the benefit of creditors.

Gardaí and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) are also investigating the case.

In the UK, home to many Ammado donors, the Metropolitan Police has launched its own investigation, while authorities in Switzerland appear to have been first off the mark, with a probe that led to Mr Conlon's arrest last December.

Mr Conlon (63), whose most recent Irish address was at St Mary's Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin, is understood to have moved to Switzerland a number of years ago.

Pembroke Dynamic has since been shuttered, with all staff let go with only statutory redundancy payments.

Charities have been left massively out of pocket, including the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children UK.

The company had provided an online donation and fundraising platform through which people could donate money to various charities - with the company taking 5pc of the monies raised for its running costs.

Instead, it is alleged, money raised from donors was paid into the business, with only a share paid over to the partner charities.

Charities

Rossa Fanning, senior counsel for the liquidator, told the High Court in January that Mr Kirby had discovered there was a €3.8m deficit in funds that ought to have been remitted to the charities.

In a liquidation, secured creditors have first call on any funds or assets left in a business.

In this case the Revenue, owed €400,000, is the main creditor.

However, before any such pay-outs are made, a determination will have to be made as to what share of the funds is actually owned by charities and incorrectly held in the business.

The case is due back for hearing at the High Court on May 17.

Irish Independent

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