Thursday 13 December 2018

Charities lose out as court seizes disgraced Irish businessman's Swiss bank accounts

Peter Conlon pleaded guilty. Photo: Sunday Times
Peter Conlon pleaded guilty. Photo: Sunday Times
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Charities who lost €3.8m to an Irish businessman's embezzlement will get nothing from his Swiss accounts, authorities have revealed.

The money in the accounts has been confiscated to cover the costs of Peter Conlon's criminal trial in Zurich - meaning it is now out of reach of the affected charities.

Ammado, the online fundraising platform run by Conlon (64) collapsed this year and it emerged €3.8m of funds donated through it were not paid to the charities.

The Irish High Court issued a world-wide freezing order against Conlon's assets, but he had already been detained in Switzerland.

Last week, a court in Zurich sentenced him to a 36-month prison term after he pleaded guilty to embezzlement of charity donations made through his company.

The money was taken to fund the running of the business, the court was told.

The Swiss judge said Conlon had not personally benefited from the offence.

Conlon's defence lawyer Andrea Taormina said he was a "good-hearted person" who has never been concerned with embezzling donations.

A report of the trial in Zurich newspaper 'Neue Zurcher Zeitung' said the one-time Entrepreneur of the Year finalist was almost unrecognisable compared to his online photographs. His lawyer told the court he had lost 20kg - more than three stones - during his pre-trial detention.

Under a deal with Swiss prosecutors, the last two years of the sentence were suspended and Conlon will be released on December 22 - a year after he was arrested at Zurich Airport.

He will be expelled from Switzerland for five years, and his lawyer said he plans to go to Paris or London.

Swiss authorities indicated that further proceedings against other people linked to the case are pending.

In Ireland, the collapse of Ammado triggered a hunt for assets by Myles Kirby, a liquidator who was appointed at the request of Revenue, which is owed €400,000, as well as a Garda investigation.

The High Court is due to hear an update on the liquidation on February 5.

Up to 800 charities were left out of pocket following the collapse of Ammado, a Dublin-based company set up to collect online donations for charities.

After the High Court appointed Mr Kirby to related company Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services, he uncovered evidence of the alleged misappropriation of up to €3.8m owed to charities.

Irish Independent

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