Fears for €3.8m charity donations

A sum of €3.8m in donations made to some of the world’s best known charitable organisations through a Dublin-based IT service provider has been dissipated, it has been claimed before the High Court.

Fears for €3.8m charity donations

The money was given by donors to charities including the Red Cross and Save the Children via an online platform service provided by Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services Ltd, Upper Pembroke St, Dublin 2, whose managing director is businessman Peter Conlon, with an address at St Mary’s Rd, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Rossa Fanning told the court.

Mr Conlon, aged 63, has “gone missing”, said counsel.

The firm was wound up last week over failure to satisfy a Revenue debt of approximately €400,000 — Myles Kirby was appointed as liquidator.

Following investigations in the days since Mr Kirby’s appointment, it was discovered that several charities have not received some €3.8m donated to them via Pembroke Dynamic’s service, said Mr Fanning, for Mr Kirby.

The liquidator’s belief was that Mr Conlon, a shareholder in various corporate vehicles that own Pembroke Dynamic, was “guilty of very serious misconduct”.

Mr Conlon has not been in contact with the company since mid-December and had “gone missing” — the liquidator is following up information to the effect Mr Conlon had been detained by the Swiss authorities, he said.

Mr Kirby has “very serious concerns” following his investigations that Mr Conlon has been attempting to dissipate and move assets beyond the reach of creditors, said counsel.

While it may appear his client had rushed to court, the seriousness of the situation merited an application for freezing orders at this stage, he said. Many details remain unknown at present, including where all the money has gone, he added.

In the short time since his appointment, Mr Kirby believes the dissipated funds were used to run the company and by Mr Conlon for personal expenditure, said Mr Fanning.

Some €40,000 was paid by Mr Conlon to a woman he is believed to be “romantically involved with”, as well as €5,000 to Mr Conlon’s daughter in the UK and some €20,000 to a firm of solicitors, he said.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello granted temporary orders freezing Mr Conlon’s assets below a value of €3.8m.

His assets include various bank accounts here.

The judge said she had “no hesitation” in granting the orders, on an ex parte basis, given the nature of evidence put before her. She adjourned the matter to next week but gave permission to return to court should the need arise.

Seeking the orders, Mr Fanning, instructed by Baily Homan, Smyth and McVeigh solicitors, said the company was set up over a decade ago by Mr Conlon and provided an online platform for charities, including Oxfam, charities affiliated to the UN, and Amnesty International, to collect donations.

The money was to be held in trust for those organisations, before being distributed minus a 5% commission to the various charities, but that did not happen, said counsel.

The company had collected €5.8m between March 2016 and September 2017 and collected a further €390,000 from December 2017 to the time it was wound up, he said.

Following a failed attempt to enter examinership, the company, which had employed 18 people, was wound up on January 22, and Mr Kirby was appointed liquidator, the court heard.

Counsel said Mr Kirby discovered monies donated to the charities and company monies were not kept separate as they were supposed to be and his investigations revealed various charities are owed some €3.8m.

The company retains just €357,000, said counsel.

Mr Conlon had been Pembroke Dynamic’s managing director and also appeared to have acted as its financial controller, he said.

Several charities, including the American Red Cross, had written to the firm last year asking for their money.

Counsel said Mr Conlon had been involved in moving intellectual property, including domain names of the company, to a related Swiss-based corporate entity, Ammado Technologies Ltd, which was also believed to be under Mr Conlon’s control.

He had gone on a skiing holiday to Zurich but had failed to attend meetings with associates there, said counsel.

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