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Saturday 7 December 2019

Console funds spent on travel, clothes, cars and rugby tickets

Paul Kelly, former CEO of the charity Console Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Paul Kelly, former CEO of the charity Console Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Lavish spending of charity funds on foreign travel, cars, designer clothes, restaurants and €2,083 worth of Rugby World Cup tickets has emerged in an investigation of the suicide-bereavement organisation Console.

The founder and former CEO Paul Kelly, his wife Patricia and their son Tim benefited by almost €500,000 in salaries and cars between 2012 and 2014.

A further €500,000 was spent using Console credit cards on items including clothes from Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss, foreign trips and groceries.

Mr Kelly's son Tim, who was director of services at Console in the UK, was on a tax-free salary of £600 per week.

Between them, the three used 11 credit cards, 'RTE Investigates' revealed last night.

The charity regulator John Farrelly is expected to take legal moves to secure the organisation, which continues to provide suicide-bereavement counselling, while it is under investigation by gardaí and the HSE.

The litany of spending on credit cards includes large unvouched cash withdrawals, trips to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other destinations and dental work.

An internal HSE audit found that from 2012 to 2014 Console generated an income of €5m. But during that time, its helplines were cut from six to two.

In that period, Paul Kelly received consultancy payments of €218,586, plus a 2009 Mercedes CLS costing €30,613.

Patricia Kelly, a 'volunteer', received salary payments of €67,149, plus a 2010 Audi Q5 costing €57,057.

She had four credit cards.

There were no contracts or board approvals for the payments to Mr Kelly or his wife.

Inconsistent and vague explanations were provided to the internal audit about Patricia Kelly's car.

Between 2012 and 2014, €736,000 was spent on Console's credit cards. The largest expenditure item on these credit cards was cash withdrawals of €87,027. Of these, Paul Kelly withdrew €66,296. There was no documentation to identify how these sums were used.

Some €71,460 was spent on credit cards, primarily by Paul Kelly on foreign travel to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Tenerife, Nice, Paris and London.

The trips to Australia and the Far East occurred around Christmas and the New Year in 2012 and into 2013.

Paul Kelly controlled all the operations of the organisation, even opening the post.

External reviewers, accountant Tom Murray and David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, met with the garda fraud squad and the charity regulator yesterday.

They produced an interim report, asking for legal protection for the charity.

The audit found that Mr Kelly used two credit cards assigned to a former employee who had left the organisation at least six years previously.

Spending of €128,169 was clocked up on these cards over three years, including cash withdrawals of €28,785.

Tim Kelly spent €3,099 of the €8,377 which went on designer and other clothing. The spending in the upmarket store Moss Bros was described as being "clothing for a poor family" and a "Console fundraiser".

Irish Independent

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