By Ann O'Loughlin
The Revenue Commissioners, in a bid to get payment of a revenue debt, have secured temporary High Court orders restraining one of Ireland's largest animal welfare charities reducing its assets below €191,000 or transferring its lands to another charity.
The orders, which were sought ex parte (one side only represented), concern Animal Heaven Animal Rescue, based in Co Kerry, and were made against the trustees of the charity.
Mr Justice Senan Allen granted the interim orders today and returned the matter to next week.
The judge said it seemed most of the €191,000 liabilities of the charity as set out in a statement of affairs is owed to Revenue.
He said the Revenue has made a prima facie case it is owed the money, that is not in dispute but the issue is whether the defendants are entitled to transfer the assets to another charity which might defeat the Revenue claim.
It was "reasonable" for the Revenue to intervene before a transfer is effected and, on foot of the Revenue providing an undertaking for damages, he would grant the interim orders and return the matter to next week, he said.
Earlier, in seeking the injunctions, Sally O’Neill BL, for the Revenue, said the €191,000 represents the figure for the charity’s liabilities as set out in a statement of affairs, the bulk of which - about €145,000 - is owed to Revenue.
The statement of affairs showed AHAR had about €275,000 excess of assets over liabilities and the bulk of those assets are the 37 acres from which it operates, she said.
The Revenue wanted the injunction to cover the total liabilities because it was concerned, if the order was limited to €145,000, other creditors might be paid out of that sum, she outlined.
It seemed it was intended to transfer the AHAR lands to another charity and she was seeking the injunction restraining such transfer in circumstances where the Revenue last Monday sought but had not received an undertaking not to dissipate assets until the Revenue debt was discharged.
The Revenue’s point of contact with the charity was Mr David Hall - who is CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Association and former interim CEO of the suicide charity Console - who was among four persons appointed in 2018 to the board of the charity on the nomination of the Charities Regulator, she said.
She said Mr Hall, in response to queries from the Revenue, had said the assets and operations of AHAR were to be moved to a charity, Athlone and West Midlands Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Athlone SPCA), and the trustees had unanimously voted to transfer the land.
He had acknowledged the Revenue request for an undertaking not to transfer the assets but his reply to that request was "unclear" and did not provide an undertaking, she said.
Ms O’Neill said audits of the charity carried out by the Revenue for 2015 and 2016 had uncovered cash withdrawals and payments for €149,071 with no records concerning those. There were also serious incidents of non-compliance with PAYE and PRSI, she said.
In an affidavit for the Revenue, it was stated the defendants have been or are trustees of AHAR which operated and seems to continue to operate from the premises and lands on 37 acres in Co Kerry.
The Revenue also provided to the court an October 2018 press release concerning AHAR issued by the Charities Regulator.
Mr Justice Allen noted the press release stated the regulator had continued to monitor the charity since January 2017 when it had imposed conditions on it over failure to keep proper books and accounts.
It was stated, following a site visit by the regulator in June 2018, there was concern the charity was still not keeping proper books and accounts. That had led to the regulator seeking to have Mr Hall and three other persons appointed to the board of the charity.