herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Credit card spending of disgraced ex-charity chief to exceed €500k

Console founder and former chief executive Paul Kelly. Photo: Conor McCabe
Console founder and former chief executive Paul Kelly. Photo: Conor McCabe

The massive credit card spending by the disgraced chief executive of Console is expected to exceed €500,000 as fresh audits are carried out.

Paul Kelly, who has resigned as chief executive of the suicide bereavement charity, and his wife Patricia are at the centre of a HSE investigation into colossal spending of the group's funds.

It also emerged that Kelly - who is aged in his late 50s - was detained by gardai last week after concerns were raised over his well-being in the wake of damning revelations into the charity's finances.

Work commenced over the weekend to relinquish assets in the couple's possession that were purchased with credit cards registered to Console.

It has been established that the couple - along with their son Tim - spent almost €465,000 on 11 of Console's 20 credit cards.

Behaviour

However, the organisation's interim chief executive, David Hall, told the Herald this figure is expected to increase when further investigations are carried out today.

"The figure (of €464,777) is the expenditure between 2012 and 2014. We haven't looked at the number for 2015 in detail yet - that will be done on Monday.

"But given the behaviour in spending - which is similar to the previous years - the number will mathematically have to increase," he said.

Mr Hall, who is also the director of the Irish Mortgage Holders Association, will give the High Court an update in the case tomorrow morning.

A previous sitting of the same court last Friday heard that Paul Kelly had not been in contact with his solicitors for a number of days, and concerns had been raised about his personal safety.

He had not been seen since leaving Console's office in Celbridge, Co Kildare, on Tuesday afternoon.

However, it emerged that he was picked up by gardai in south Dublin on Thursday evening last week. Officers had become aware of fears over his well-being, and detained Paul Kelly in the Dun Laoghaire area.

He was brought to a garda station where he was assessed by a medical professional, before being taken into care.

A source stated that the garda matter was purely in relation to his well-being.

Among the vast amounts of expenditure that were discovered by auditors examining the Kellys' spending was an €80 speeding fine.

The fine was charged to a Console credit card on January 23, 2012, and Mr Kelly said the fine happened on the way to a critical incident of suicide.

However, auditors noted a payment of a motoring fine "is a payment in relation to a person breaking the law and is not an appropriate use of public funds and charitable donations".

Paul Kelly also racked up restaurant bills of over €10,000, while his son Tim purchased clothing worth more than €3,000 on a Console credit card.

Solicitors for the couple attended the handover of assets on Saturday afternoon the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge.

Their legal team had arranged for a 2010 Audi Q5 and a 2009 Mercedes CLS to be collected by the auditors from the family home in Clane, Co Kildare.

Both vehicles were purchased on credit cards registered to Console and cost the charity almost €90,000.

Taxpayer

The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has also written to the HSE asking representatives to attend the committee in the near future to answer questions about their funding of bodies including Console.

Sean Fleming said the HSE hands out billions of taxpayers' money to voluntary hospitals and charities and does not appear to know what is going on.

He also told RTE's Marian Finucane Show that questions would be raised over why there hadn't been earlier intervention.

The HSE has confirmed that it is investigating the payments.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris said that the auditor's report on the charity makes for "harrowing reading" and described elements of it as "disturbing and disgusting".

Speaking on RTE's The Week In Politics, Mr Harris said he was very concerned about the revelations and would be speaking to HSE officials about them tomorrow.

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