Restaurateur denies withholding company books from liquidator
HIGH-PROFILE restaurateur and publican Jay Bourke is facing allegations that he is deliberately withholding the books of one of his companies from a Revenue-appointed liquidator.
The serious claim was made in court documents filed by the liquidator of the failed Shebeen Chic bar in Dublin.
The pub was launched in a blaze of publicity in 2008 when it was touted as an eco-friendly venue with an interior made up of recycled materials.
But following a rent dispute it closed in 2012 with the loss of 21 jobs and owing almost €90,000 to the taxman.
However, two years on, the liquidation has yet to be completed.
Liquidator PJ Lynch has told the High Court he had been unable to properly wind up the firm that ran the business because "books and records and other financial information is being deliberately withheld".
The allegation is being contested by Mr Bourke.
In an affidavit seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Lynch said Mr Bourke had confirmed to him in February of last year that he was in possession of the accounts.
But these had still not been handed over, despite several requests, the liquidator alleged.
Mr Lynch said he had been forced to use bank account records to do a detailed review of the company's trading position. He said the review indicated there were significant financial transactions through the company's bank accounts, totalling more than €450,000, which involved companies, entities and people with whom Mr Bourke is or was associated.
According to Mr Lynch, most of the payments were made to other businesses Mr Bourke was associated with, with sums totalling €421,780 paid to Sherland Entertainments, Eden Restaurant, the Panti Bar, Bobos, the Pygmalion and Cafe Bar Deli in Cork.
A further €17,000 was paid to a named business associate, while €20,000 went to Anglo Irish Bank.
Mr Lynch said he had concerns about the transactions and had requested an explanation for them, but had failed to get any. He told the High Court that despite the fact he was not receiving co-operation from Mr Bourke, he intended to investigate the transactions further.
The liquidator told the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement last year that he intends to apply to the High Court to have Mr Bourke disqualified as a director.
He previously alleged Mr Bourke traded in a "reckless manner" with the intent of defrauding the Revenue Commissioners.
Mr Bourke told the Irish Independent he was contesting all of the allegations being made against him.
He said he had provided Mr Lynch with all of the books he had. Some were not available to him as they had been evicted from the premises on Georges Street by the landlords and certain records had been left behind, Mr Bourke said.
"What he is saying is incorrect. I dropped every single record I had to him," said Mr Bourke.
The businessman said the closure of the bar had been "very upsetting".
"It still is today as I have to reply to all of these accusations," he said.
Meanwhile, a chef who was sacked from Shebeen Chic in 2009 and subsequently won an unfair dismissals case has finally received a redundancy payment.
Leanne McDowell was awarded €5,364 last month following protracted proceedings which involved the intervention on her behalf by Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton.
The money is being paid from the Department of Social Protection's social insurance fund.
However, she has yet to receive a penny of the €50,000 she was awarded by an employment appeals tribunal in 2011 as the company against whom the award was made has since dissolved.