Irish solicitor ‘made false claims to attract investor’

A SOLICITOR attempted to introduce investments into a billion dollar oil-drilling scheme by falsely claiming $10 million was being held by his employers, a disciplinary tribunal heard yesterday.

Philip Merrills-Dearn, aged 35, of Kilcock, Co Kildare, formed a company for carrying out the work but used his solicitor employers’ offices and headed notepaper to add credibility, it was claimed.

“It was not a minor deal, it was big money with big money players,” said Mr Jon Goodwin, for the Law Society.

Mr Merrills-Dearn denies allegations of conduct unbefitting a solicitor by attempting to introduce investment to the oil company, which “brought himself and the profession into disrepute.”

Added Mr Goodwin: “He used his status to lend credibility to the scheme.”

It arose after an Israeli lawyer, Lawrence Becker, had a conversation with his nephew who worked in the same department at London solicitors Nicholson Graham Jones.

Following a conversation between the nephew and Mr Merrills-Dearn, a £100 off-the-shelf company called BKMD was formed for this purpose.

Proposed investor Lenstar was to buy an interest in the licence for drilling for

$82.5m which could produce $594m

Mr Merrills-Dearn’s newly formed company would receive an introduction fee of $500,000 and a 16% share for the introduction.

Although no money was received, his involvement “could only add credibility,” said Mr Goodwin.

Givot, an Israeli oil exploratory company, based in Jerusalem, was granted a licence in 1993 and floated the company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

“In six years they drilled two wells and needed $10m for a third,” said Mr Goodwin.

During the course of the work, Mr Merrills-Dearn told Mr Becker in a taped conversation that $10m was being held on client account.

Mr Richard Nelson, for Mr Merrills-Dearn, submitted there was no case to answer. He said $1.4bn was to be made when the “oil came out of that well.”

Mr Merrills-Dearn emphatically denied telling Mr Becker $10m was being held on client account, but agreed he forwarded the false bank letter without investigating it, saying: “It wasn’t my role.”

The hearing continues.

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