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Sunday 27 May 2018

U2 star claims PA's €2.8m scam was missed by his advisers

which he said were "rooted in greed and nothing else" as he jailed the first-time offender.

With a quarter remission off her sentence, coupled with good behaviour, Hawkins is due to be released in October 2017.

The former housekeeper turned PA was able to steal from Mr Clayton's bank accounts over the course of four years because he trusted her as a signatory on his accounts as he was busy travelling the world.

Now, Mr Clayton will attempt to recoup his missing millions in a highly fraught legal action against "accountant to the stars" Gaby Smyth and Bank of Ireland Private Banking.

The Irish Independent has learnt that he has accused Bank of Ireland's elite unit of failing to detect the massive fraud by not managing and monitoring his accounts. And he has pointed the finger of blame at Gaby Smyth, the well-known Dublin adviser.

Mr Clayton says he ordered Mr Smyth's firm to undertake a review of how much Hawkins had embezzled when he first discovered the fraud in September 2008.

He claims that Gaby Smyth and Co reported back that she had embezzled almost €14,000.

The true figure, said the U2 star, was almost €5m -- although Hawkins was ultimately convicted of a €2.8m fraud.

He claims that the €14,000 figure reported by the accountancy firm was instrumental in his decision not to fire Hawkins and contributed to the severity of the losses that he ultimately suffered.

The stage is now set for a heated legal battle between the U2 star and his bankers and advisers, both of whom are vigorously defending his compensation claim.

Mr Smyth did not respond to calls last night. Bank of Ireland, which is being sued for damages for breach of contract and negligence, declined to comment.

It is understood that one of the main "battlegrounds" in the case will be if there was any agreement for the bank to oversee, monitor and review the performance of Hawkins.

Although initially employed as a housekeeper, Hawkins quickly gained Mr Clayton's trust and was promoted to the role of personal assistant.

In 2000, Mr Smyth suggested that she might also be capable of some "simple book-keeping" and he set her up with an easy-to-use computer programme, Quick Books.

Embezzled

Three years ago, Mr Clayton issued legal proceedings against Hawkins. But it is unlikely this will yield any money as the millions she embezzled were blown on lavish items including horses and luxury holidays.

Yesterday, Judge McCartan said Hawkins's crime "ranks at the higher end of the scale" and that the nature of the crime was a "serious breach of trust craftily done over time."

He said it was "a crime rooted in greed and nothing else and whether she was a fool or a clever person, that does matter".

"She is not a neophyte and she does not come without experience as she ran a small hotel," said the judge.

Hawkins (49), originally from London but with an address at Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to 181 counts of theft from two of Mr Clayton's Bank of Ireland accounts over a four-year period from 2004 to 2008.

The thefts from Mr Clayton totalled €2,869,274.

Dearbhail McDonald

Irish Independent

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