€3.8m in donations made to some of the world’s best known charitable organisations through a Dublin based IT service provider have been dissipated, the High Court has heard.
The money was given by donors to charities including the Red Cross and Save the Children via an on line platform service provided by Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services Ltd, Upper Pembroke Street in Dublin 2 whose managing director is Leitrim businessman Mr Peter Conlon.
The firm was wound up last week arising out of it’s failure to satisfy a debt owed to Revenue of approximately €400,000 and a liquidator was appointed.
Following investigations undertaken by the liquidator Mr Myles Kirby in the days since his appointment it has been discovered several charities have not received some €3.8m donated to them via Pembroke Dynamic’s services.
At the High Court on Tuesday Rossa Fanning SC for the liquidator said it appeared Mr Conlon, who is a shareholder in various corporate vehicles that own Pembroke Dynamic, was “guilty of very serious misconduct”.
Counsel said Mr Conlon, who is originally from Carrick-on-Shannon, has not been in contact with the company since mid December and had “gone missing”.
Counsel said the liquidator is following up on information he has received that Mr Conlon has been detained by the Swiss authorities.
Counsel said Mr Kirby has “very serious concerns” following his investigations into the company’s affairs that Mr Conlon has been attempting to dissipate and move assets beyond the reach of creditors.
Counsel said that while it may appear his client had rushed to court, the seriousness of the situation merited an application for freezing orders at this stage.
Counsel said many details remain unknown at present, including where all the donated money has gone.
Counsel said from his investigations 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.
Counsel said 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.
On Tuesday Ms Justice Caroline Costello granted Mr Kirby temporary orders freezing Mr Conlon’s assets below a value of €3.8m.
His assets include various bank accounts within the state.
The Judge said she had “no hesitation” in granting the order, on an ex parte basis, given the nature of evidence put before the court.
The Judge adjourned the matter to a date next week, and gave the liquidator 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.
It provided an on line platform for organisations including Oxfam, charities affiliated to the United Nations, and Amnesty International to collected donations.
The money was to be held in trust for those organisation, before being distributed minus a 5% commission to the various charities. However this did not happen, counsel said.
The company collected €5.8m between March 2016 and September 2017, counsel said.
It collected a further €390,000 in December 2017 to the time it was wound up.
Following a failed attempt to enter examinership the company, which had employed 18 people was wound up on Jan 22nd last, and Mr Kirby was appointed.
Mr Kirby discovered that monies donated to the charities and company monies were not kept separate as they were supposed to be.
His investigations revealed that various charities are owed some €3.8m.
The company retains just €357,000, counsel said.
Mr Conlon with an address at St Mary’s Road, Ballsbridge in Dublin 4 had been Pembroke Dynamic’s managing director had it appeared also acted as the firm’s financial controller.
Counsel said that last year several charities had written to Pembroke Dynamic, including the American Red Cross, asking for its money.
Counsel said that Mr Conlon had also been involved in moving intellectual property, including domain names of the company, to related Swiss based corporate entity called Ammado Technologies Ltd which is also
believed to be under Mr Conlon’s control.
As well as not being in contact with employees at Pembroke Dynamic Mr Conlon (aged 63) has not signed in on the company’s website for some weeks or answered his mobile phone, counsel said.
He had gone on a skiing holiday to Zurich, but had failed to attend meetings with associates there, counsel said.
Counsel added the company’s Chief Technology Officer has been assisting the liquidator.