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Katona ex-accountant rushed to cardiac unit after deception arrest

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David McHugh

David McHugh

David McHugh

A convicted swindler who previously worked as an accountant for former pop star Kerry Katona suffered an apparent heart attack yesterday after he was arrested by gardai over deception offences.

David McHugh (63) was arrested at his home in Naas, Co Kildare, in an early-morning raid and taken to the local garda station.

However, shortly after he was processed there, McHugh took ill with chest pains and was taken to Naas General Hospital for treatment.

Officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) were questioning him about a number of alleged offences, including that he had been operating a fake law firm.

Immigration

The investigation into his activities began after complaints from the Law Society of Ireland and a member of the public who alleged to gardai in Naas in March of last year that she had been "ripped off".

It is understood McHugh's law firm has mainly been acting for foreign nationals and obtaining money to fight immigration cases.

"This individual had told his clients that he was sending documentation to the Department of Justice in relation to immigration matters, but the department never got that documentation," a senior source said last night.

"Yesterday's arrest is part of a long-running investigation by the GNECB which involved a search operation at the suspect's offices last October in which computers and documentation were seized.

"In the months since then, these items were analysed, which led gardai to get enough evidence to make the planned arrest yesterday."

Since the raid in October, it is understood McHugh set up a new fake law firm despite the fact investigators had got permission for €100,000 in a bank account linked to him to be frozen.

Shortly after his offices were searched by detectives, the Law Society of Ireland posted a notice on its website about Tallaght man McHugh's firm.

The society warned that two named legal practitioners are not on the roll of solicitors.

"If you receive any correspondence from any entity that you are unsure of, you should check the authenticity of the correspondence by contacting the practice directly by reliable and established means, such as the Law Society or Law Directory," it said.

Last night, senior sources said gardai were hopeful of securing deception charges against McHugh.

"A number of people have come forward saying they have been ripped off by this individual. This has mostly involved immigration cases," one source said.

Trial

"The allegation is that people have given over money from €200 to €1,000 in individual cases, and these cases are being investigated by the fraud squad. The average seems to be around €400."

McHugh is currently on the run from English authorities after he failed to appear in court in April 2018, when he was due to go on trial in relation to a number of fraud charges.

McHugh became famous in the UK over a decade ago when he handled Kerry Katona's accounts after they met when she became the face of female-only taxi firm Pink Ladies.

However, it ended in tears when she sacked him and was later arrested for assaulting McHugh in an incident in which police decided not to press charges against her.

In November 2011, McHugh was jailed for three years in the UK after he admitted taking part in a £4m (€4.5m) fraud.