Saturday 15 December 2018

Irish Red Cross tells donors cash safe after businessman vanishes

Businessman Peter Conlon. Photo: Fergal Phillips/The Sunday Times
Businessman Peter Conlon. Photo: Fergal Phillips/The Sunday Times
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

The Irish Red Cross has moved to assure donors their donations are safe after it emerged the head of an online charity fundraising firm has disappeared and millions are missing from its accounts.

The High Court heard this week businessman Peter Conlon had "gone to ground" with €3.8m owed to client charities.

Among the international charities owed money by Mr Conlon's firm Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services, previously Ammado Internet Services, were the UNHCR and Save the Children.

Yesterday the Irish Red Cross said it had been made aware of issues at the fundraising service provider by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) in April 2017. It said the IFRC and many of its national societies, including the Irish Red Cross, had been using the Ammado service since 2011.

However, in April the IFRC alerted all national societies to "business conduct issues" with the platform and advised all national societies to immediately suspend their use of Ammado. "The Irish Red Cross took immediate action and closed down its Ammado account," it said yesterday.

The charity also said all the money had been collected by the time the account was closed, so there was no outstanding funding owed.

It is understood the liquidator of the company has passed on details of the accounts to the gardaí and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Myles Kirby, who was appointed liquidator to the firm last week, brought an ex-parte application before the High Court on Tuesday seeking to freeze of Mr Conlon's assets.

Mr Conlon (63), with an address at St Mary's Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin, is understood to have moved to Switzerland a number of years ago. It is understood he may have been taken into custody there.

The Revenue petitioned to have Pembroke wound up last September. Pembroke sought the appointment of an examiner and this was granted but the examinership was ultimately unsuccessful and Mr Kirby was appointed liquidator on January 22.

Rossa Fanning, counsel for the liquidator, said in the past week Mr Kirby had discovered there was a €3.8m deficit in funds that ought to have been remitted to the charities.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello, granting the order freezing Mr Conlon's assets, said: "The picture is a very grave one giving rise to the utmost concerns. The balance lies in favour of approving the reliefs sought in his case."

The case was adjourned to February 9.

Irish Independent

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