Belfast Telegraph

Fraud suspect's appeal thrown out

Senior judges have thrown out an appeal by a fugitive businessman at the centre of a suspected multi-million pound investment scam being jailed.

Francois de Dietrich had sought to overturn the 18-month prison term imposed for contempt of court after he failed to disclose his worldwide assets.

But the Court of Appeal dismissed his challenge after the formerly Donegal-based Frenchman failed to turn up for the hearing in Belfast.

With a warrant out for his arrest, police were said to have been present in case he had appeared.

Dozens of people on both sides of the border fear they may have lost millions of pounds in investments made in liquidated stock through the businessman.

He was expected to contest the conviction in his absence by claiming it was draconian.

Last week, however, his former lawyers were granted permission to sever links to him.

Despite the barrister and solicitor coming off record, the appeal remained listed for hearing.

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan was told today that de Dietrich was not in the court precincts.

Sir Declan pointed out that a request for the appeal to be adjourned was refused last month.

"In those circumstances it seems we have no alternative but to dismiss the appeal," he said.

The judge directed that confirmation of the outcome should be sent to the last known email addresses of de Dietrich and a lawyer in France associated with him.

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