Alleged investors seek appointment of inspector to Christmas tree firm
Posted on 14th March 2022 at 20:25
Company wants more time to deal with ‘fresh allegations’ from the applicant
A small group of alleged investors are seeking to appoint a High Court inspector to investigate the affairs of a Christmas tree planting company.
The application to appoint an inspector to WFS Forestry Ireland LTD, with registered offices in the Fitzwilliam Business Centre, 26/27 Pembroke Street, Dublin 2, comes before the court pursuant to section 747 of the Companies Act 2014.
Under this section, the court may appoint an inspector to a company to investigate matters specified by the court and to report on those matters.
Frank Beaty SC and Neal Flynn, instructed by Peter Boyle Solicitors, said the applicant is anxious to have his case heard as soon as possible.
Applicant John Kearney, of Ballyroe, Tralee, Co Kerry, is asking the court to appoint Declan de Lacy, of accountancy firm PKF O’Connor, Leddy & Holmes, as inspector.
He also wants an order directing the inspector, if appointed, to report on whether the affairs of the company have been conducted with an intent to defraud creditors, for a fraudulent or unlawful purpose, or in a manner that unfairly prejudices some or all of its creditors.
Counsel for the company and director said her clients need time to respond to “fresh allegations” from the applicant. The court heard the company and director Craig Hands are objecting to the application. The allegations are denied.
Neil Steen SC, for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (OCDE), said his client is not involved in the factual disputes of the case and any documents it might file is likely to relate to procedural matters.
Counsel for the Minister for Justice was also present and could not yet indicate to what extent the Minister would participate in the proceedings.
Among the alleged investors is a retiree who claims the company is indebted to her in the amount of about €396,000 on foot of alleged investments and a €50,000 loan.
In documents before the court, it is claimed her late husband arranged to make multiple investments in the company’s forestry projects between 2017 and 2020 after having placed “great trust” in the advice he allegedly received from the company.
It is claimed the dates upon which these alleged investments were due to mature have expired. She said the company’s director explained the payment delays were due to Covid-19 and Brexit but it is alleged that no payment plan was forthcoming.
She said she believes her late husband was “vulnerable to manipulation” and “was manipulated” by the company. She said she is now “deeply concerned” as to what has become of the funds they allegedly invested.
Mr Justice Michael Quinn said this was “not the kind of application that should be hanging over a company” and a date for hearing should be fixed as soon as possible.
The case will be mentioned before the court later this month.
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