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Sunday 11 December 2016

Accountant in €161k 'fraud' from teen charity says - 'I've brought shame to my family'

Accountant Greg Walsh
Accountant Greg Walsh

An accountant has said he brought "shame and humiliation" on his family after he admitted misappropriating €161,000 in charity funds.

Greg Walsh (67) said his "fraudulent activities" came about after his business got into financial difficulty and he ran up debts of close to €1m.

The cash was misappropriated from the Carline Learning Centre, a State-funded organisation supporting disadvantaged teenagers in west Dublin, where Mr Walsh had been treasurer.

In a High Court filing, Mr Walsh said he "unreservedly apologised" for taking the cash, which was supposed to have been used to cover tax and other liabilities of the charity.

Raided

In an affidavit, Mr Walsh told the court his office had been raided by gardai following a complaint from the charity and he intended to plead guilty should any criminal charges be brought against him.

He revealed he had debts of €924,000 and just €5,367 in his bank accounts.

Mr Walsh, a low-profile accountant with past links to Fine Gael and business addresses in Kimmage and Celbridge, has offered the charity the proceeds of his life assurance policy as a token of his remorse.

Carline issued proceedings against him earlier this month after an investigation by its auditors.

A report concluded that €161,337 had been misappropriated by way of cheques made out to Walsh and Associates and two other firms.

Some €72,309 of this was supposed to have been paid to the Revenue Commissioners.

Carline's chairman John McKernan previously told the court that Mr Walsh had been treasurer for a number of years and had been completely trusted to look after its books and pay its bills.

When challenged, Mr Walsh told the board there had been a mix-up over payments to Revenue which had since been rectified.

But the charity moved swiftly after concluding a letter of explanation penned by Mr Walsh was "a work of fiction". It sought orders, to which Mr Walsh consented, requiring him to repay the cash and disclose what had become of the diverted funds.

Its board is now focused on ensuring the charity survives the controversy and maintains it educational services for marginalised teenagers.

In his affidavit, Mr Walsh said: "I must regretfully inform the court and the plaintiff that I have misappropriated the sum of €161,000 or thereabouts from the plaintiff."

Mr Walsh said he was in the process of verifying the exact amount when his business premises and residence were visited by members of the Lucan district detective unit.

"All my books and records were seized under a search warrant," he said. "I co-operated with the search and it is my intention to fully assist the gardai in any subsequent criminal investigation."

Mr Walsh said he had been advised by his solicitor of his right to silence and his privilege against self-incrimination.

However, he said: "I say it is my intention to plead guilty to any criminal charges that must inevitably be brought and that all I can now do is apologise to the plaintiff and my other clients who are at a loss."

Mr Walsh said he had been advised by his solicitor there would also be a criminal investigation by the Revenue in relation to his actions.

He said that until mid-2014 he had traded as an accountant and bookkeeper without any breach of his fiduciary duties.

But he then found himself in a situation where he had promised clients investment returns which did not materialise and the situation "spiralled out of control". "I regretfully used client funds to repay existing clients," he said.

Surrendered

He revealed that two clients sued him last year for a liability of around €560,000. As a result he was obliged to sell his family home in Celbridge for €351,000, with €291,000 of the proceeds paid to his debtors. He said he also surrendered his beneficial interest, worth €200,000, in a property in Rosslare.

Mr Walsh said his wife and immediate family had "absolutely no knowledge of the extent of my fraudulent activities".

"I have not been candid with them regarding how bad matters were and I can only apologise to my family for the shame and humiliation I have brought to their door through their association with me."

The case is due back before the court today.

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