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Monday 10 December 2018

Watchdog to join €3.8m charity probe

Small number of Irish operators have been hit by Ammado collapse, charity body confirms

FACING Questions: Ammado founder Peter Conlon. Picture: Fergal Phillips/The Sunday Times
FACING Questions: Ammado founder Peter Conlon. Picture: Fergal Phillips/The Sunday Times
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Ireland's corporate watchdog is poised to investigate the online donations platform said to owe €3.8m to charities, as it emerged that a "small number" of Irish organisations may have been hit.

The Office for the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), which enforces company law, is to examine the operation of the Dublin company that serviced the online platform, according to a senior source.

The well-known Irish businessman, Peter Conlon, founder of the online platform, Ammado, is understood to be in custody in Switzerland, where an investigation into its activities is already in train.

The Wheel, the umbrella group for Irish charities, said yesterday that it has been liaising with its 1,300 members and that the "early signs" are that a small number of Irish charities have been "negatively impacted", some "possibly significantly". However, director of public policy, Ivan Cooper told the Sunday Independent that overall the impact on Irish charities will be limited.

The ODCE declined to confirm or deny whether an investigation is under way.

The alleged irregularities in Ammado and its Irish service provider, Pembroke Dynamic Services, were revealed in the High Court last week by a liquidator appointed to recover a €400,000 tax debt.

The High Court was told last week that following his initial investigations, Myles Kirby had "very serious concerns" that there had been an attempt to move assets beyond the reach of creditors.

The court heard that around €3.8m raised via Ammado had failed to be passed on to charities. It wasn't known where some of the money had gone, however the court was told that Mr Kirby believed the dissipated funds were used to run the company and by Mr Conlon for personal expenditure.

At least 800 charities are being contacted to be told money due to them from the Ammado platform may be missing.

Ammado's website was shut down late last week and visitors to the site are now referred to the liquidator.

The Charities Regulator has separately announced last week that it plans to inquire into the financial irregularities at the firm.

Ammado, which is based in Switzerland, facilitated public donations to international charities on a platform provided by the Dublin-based Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services.

Peter Conlon is the managing director of Pembroke Dynamic Services and is also currently listed as its sole director.

A native of Leitrim, he founded a series of technology companies and has an address in St Mary's Road in Dublin 4.

The Charities Regulator in Ireland announced last week that it will be inquiring into any alleged breaches of the Charities Act.

The Wheel, the national association for charities, has meanwhile been liaising with its 1,300 members to assess how many might be affected but assessing the scale of the impact will take time.

"The company is being liquidated and the exact impact on Irish charities will only be known when this process is completed. We are currently liaising with our 1,300 members to understand the scale of the impact, and the early signs are that, while a small number of Irish charities have been negatively impacted (some possibly significantly), the impact on Ireland's charity sector in general appears to be limited," said Mr Cooper, director of public policy.

"We advise any charity that thinks it may have been affected to engage with the liquidators and to read the relevant statements on the Charities Regulator's website."

It was reported yesterday that two major international charities are reportedly owed more than €500,000. The refugee agency, the UNHCR, is owed just over €400,000 and Save the Children UK is owed €118,000.

Sunday Independent

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