Monday 11 December 2017

Clayton placed his trust in PA, theft trial told

Nicola Donnelly

U2 bassist to give evidence as ex-employee stands accused of embezzling €2.8m from him

CAROL Hawkins, the former PA of U2's Adam Clayton, listened attentively when she appeared at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last Thursday on a total of 181 theft charges. The 48-year-old responded quietly but firmly to each charge: "Not guilty."

Dressed in an olive-green coat and scarf and wearing a black shirt and matching trousers, the mother-of-two, in whom the U2 bass guitarist placed his trust in for almost 13 years, is accused of embezzling a total of €2.8m from the Grammy-award winning musician.

It took almost half-an-hour to appoint and swear in the jury of seven men and five women and a further two hours for each of the 181 charges against Ms Hawkins to be read out in court.

Mr Clayton, 42, wearing a black jacket and an open-neck white shirt with a zen-like print, looked relaxed as he sat through proceedings alongside U2 manager Paul McGuinness.

At one stage during the two-hour hearing Mr Clayton flicked through a copy of a newspaper.

Opening the trial, which is being presided over by Judge Patrick McCartan, prosecutor Colm O Briain told the jury they may think they might be getting a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous.

"But the trial is not about that," he told the jury. "It is a grubby tale of prolonged, repeated and pernicious fraud and gross mistrust."

Ms Hawkins, of Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin, worked for Mr Clayton since the early Nineties.

At first she was his housekeeper, but as his trust grew in her so did her responsibilities and she became his personal assistant.

In 2004 Mr Clayton appointed Ms Hawkins as signatory to a number of his bank accounts.

Mr O Briain said there will be evidence that Ms Hawkins was given a credit card and Laser card, which was paid off by direct debit from one of Mr Clayton's accounts, to allow her to pay his legitimate expenses without prior approval.

Ms Hawkins and her former husband John, who worked as Mr Clayton's driver, earned up to €48,000 a year between them at one stage and lived rent-free at the guitarist's Georgian mansion, Danesmoate, in Rathfarnham, where U2 recorded The Joshua Tree album.

When Danesmoate was being refurbished in 2005, Ms Hawkins and her husband moved into another house, which Mr Clayton picked up the monthly rent of €2,600.

Mr Clayton continued to pay Ms Hawkins the full salary even after her marriage ended in 2007, eventually raising her monthly pay to €4,080.

It was from two accounts -- the Fitzwilliam account and Danesmoate account -- that she is accused of withdrawing a total of €2.8m over four years from 2004 to 2008.

She allegedly withdrew €1.7m from the Fitzwilliam account and €1.1m from Danesmoate.

The funds were then allegedly placed in three separate accounts -- her own personal account, a joint account with her former husband, and a Bank of Ireland Credit Card Services account.

Prosecuting counsel said that in 2008 Ms Hawkins approached Mr Clayton and admitted she had paid for flights out of his account, to visit her children in Britain and the US.

It was then Mr Clayton removed her as signatory of his two bank accounts but kept her on as his personal assistant.

After this initial disclosure, an investigation took place and in November 2009 Ms Hawkins' employment was terminated.

The court heard investigations by a forensic accountant hired by Mr Clayton gardai were carried out that allegedly showed several irregularities in the two accounts.

The jury were told that evidence will be given that on a day in 2007 she allegedly made a single withdrawal of €310,000 from one of Mr Clayton's accounts.

The rest of the transactions ranged in value from €1,000 to €36,000.

Counsel said the jury will hear evidence from Mr Clayton detailing the financial arrangement he made with Ms Hawkins. He said there will be further evidence from Mr Clayton's advisers and gardai as well as a significant number of documents.

Mr O Briain urged the jury not to be swayed by the fact Mr Clayton is famous and wealthy.

"He placed a substantial amount of trust in her," he said. "He is entitled as any other to place his trust in people, to rely on that trust and to not go about his life thinking the worst of people."

During the first two days of the trial, Ms Hawkins took her own notes, only looking up a few times from her notepad.

Leaving court each day, Mr Clayton maintained his relaxed composure, smiling for awaiting press photographers and took time to sign autographs for delighted fans.

He is expected to give evidence later this week in the trial, which is expected to last six weeks.

The case involves more than 30 witnesses and a 2,500-page book of evidence.

Sunday Independent

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