Monday December 16, 2019

From a Swiss jail to a literary riddle: Peter Conlon is fighting back

The Ammado founder convicted of embezzlement last year has made a complaint to gardaí over his pursuit by liquidators

16th June, 2019
Peter Conlon: the businessman currently describes himself as ‘an entrepreneur of no fixed abode’ Pic: Fergal Phillips

In Dublin’s Westbury Hotel, Peter Conlon is waiting for me near the grand piano.

The south of France has been a refuge for many colourful exiles over the years and, until recently, it was the controversial businessman’s post-jail retreat.

While he recovered from the rigours of confinement in a Zurich prison, Conlon spent time at a friend’s villa in Èze on the French Riviera, the same neighbourhood where U2’s Bono and The Edge keep a home.

He used the time of his incarceration to complete his autobiography, and is now working on a further book, The Entrepreneur and the Riddle.

The riddle of how it all came to this - the collapse of Ammado, the digital charity business he founded and the ensuing fallout – remains largely unsolved. “We simply ran out of money,” Conlon says ruefully.

As he tells it, he was on the cusp of agreeing £30 million in fresh investment when an examinership move was made.

He was jailed for embezzlement by a court in Switzerland last year after using almost €4 million to fund Ammado instead of passing it to charities such as the Red Cross and UN’s Save the Children fund.

He describes himself now as “an entrepreneur of no fixed abode” and is staying with friends in Tullamore and Galway. He is in Dublin to meet with lawyers and plan his counter-attack to the court pursuit by Revenue-appointed liquidator Myles Kirby in relation to Ammado’s Irish interests.

He is tanned, dressed in a green cotton Lacoste sweater and jeans, glancing at his iWatch and his phone as messages ping through. He looks relaxed, with only a slight tremor betraying the aftermath of his ordeal of a year in prison (two further years were suspended).

He has clearly bounced back well from the post-traumatic stress he described himself as enduring after his incarceration, which involved flashbacks, insomnia and physical ailments.

He does not get stressed now, he says, and meditates regularly. His planned new venture may even take in the wellness space.

Other than a modest pension from Enterprise Ireland, where he worked years ago, he says he is without funds.

Last Tuesday, Conlon made what he called a “criminal complaint” to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about the liquidator of Pembroke Dynamic Internet Services, the Dublin-based company linked to Ammado from which the Revenue Commissioners are owed €489,234.

In a hand-delivered letter to Harris’s office in the Phoenix Park, and a sworn affidavit he planned to file last Friday, he claims that legal proceedings which were served on him while he was still in prison in Zurich did not contain the full pleadings.

When contacted, liquidator Kirby – who met with Conlon in the Round Room of the Four Courts last Monday morning, where they had a robust conversation – said that his office was “aware of no such complaints”.

Conlon alleges that he received only 4.8 per cent of the documents from the liquidator.

He is also making a complaint to the relevant authorities in Switzerland about the Zurich prosecutor who dealt with his case.

He alleges that Ammado’s shareholders wanted to continue to fund the group if given the opportunity, and that Pembroke’s parent company Ammado Technology Ltd indicated it would convert its €12.47 million debt to equity on examinership.

Ongoing High Court proceedings between Conlon and the liquidator are back in court next month.

Conlon is also preparing to send an “extensive report in relation to the denial of my inalienable human rights” to the Irish government and the European Commissioner for Human Rights, claiming that he endured solitary confinement in contravention with the United Nations’ Mandela Rules, which define it as isolation lasting 15 or more consecutive days

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