Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI's invite to fraudster

By Margaret Canning

Invest NI has admitted it had |to withdraw an invitation to a convicted fraudster to take part |in a seminar about investing in new businesses.

The agency said Fermanagh-based Walsh Doherty Capital (WDC) — which was set up by |42-year-old David Walsh — was invited to the proposed October event because his firm “stated they had made several investments in companies”.

Invest NI was then tipped off about Blackburn-born Walsh's 2007 convictions for defrauding his English business partners of £680,000 — which he used to fund a lavish lifestyle — and withdrew the invite. The body denied having any other relationship with WDC, which closed at the end of October. A spokesman for the defunct business yesterday said it was taking legal advice in response to blogs, which it claimed contained “incorrect and misleading and libellous information”.

“Of course we do deny any wrongdoing vehemently,” the spokesman added.

Invest NI said the ‘stakeholder forum’, which WDC had been due to attend, was subsequently postponed due to “other pressing priorities”.

“Walsh Doherty were invited on the basis that they had stated that they had recently become active in the local venture capital market and had made several investments. When issues were raised regarding Mr Walsh’s credentials, the invitation to him to attend was withdrawn.”

A spokeswoman added: “Other than being an original invitee to the October event, Invest NI does not, nor ever has had, any relationship with Walsh Doherty.

“Invest NI is unaware of any recommendations having been made to companies to contact Walsh Doherty.”

There is no detail of any investments made in Ireland by WDC, which yesterday said it had spoken to only three potential clients north of the border. According to online investigative journalist Lyra McKee, it is understood small businesses which explored the possibility of getting funding were unhappy about the terms proposed.

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness, the chairman of Stormont’s enterprise committee, said: “I think Invest NI should have been more careful in evaluating the company and doing a little bit of homework on its background.

“It’s an area which is difficult and which could potentially embarrass Invest NI and potentially endanger bona fide clients.”

Factfile

Walsh Doherty Capital was founded at the beginning of last year with the stated aim of developing “Northern Ireland plc” and helping the recovery of Ireland’s private enterprise economy. But the firm, which was set up by David Walsh, had stopped trading by the end of October.

Walsh was convicted of theft in 2007 after conning his business partners in Concept Building Solutions in Clitheroe out of nearly £700,000.

Preston Crown Court heard how Walsh used the name of his Persian cat Christian Shajore to invent a fictitious Iranian businessman who was to invest in the company.

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