Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

PR guru behind 'Love Belfast' brand is corrupt cop and shameless fraudster

EXCLUSIVE: Sunday Life unmasks ex-PSNI officer Andrew Donaldson as career criminal

DARLING OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA SCENE: Andrew Donaldson with his girlfriend Inga Norvilyte
DARLING OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA SCENE: Andrew Donaldson with his girlfriend Inga Norvilyte
IN THE DOCK: Andrew Donaldson leaving Newry court after being charged with misconduct in a public office. Picture Mark McCormick.
IN THE DOCK: Andrew Donaldson leaving Newry court after being charged with misconduct in a public office. Picture Mark McCormick.
Andrew Donaldson and Inga Norvilyte - from Love Belfast
Andrew Donaldson and Inga Norvilyte - from Love Belfast

A bent ex-cop who leaked police secrets about a man who was later stabbed to death has reinvented himself as a social media guru and the new darling of the public relations scene.

Sunday Life can reveal that career criminal Andrew Donaldson — who was booted out of the PSNI for misconduct — is the brains behind the hugely popular Love Belfast and Take Back the City brands on Facebook, Twitter and other websites.

Both organisations are paid thousands of pounds by unsuspecting local businesses to promote them online.

They also work closely with politicians and celebrities who do not have a clue about the criminal history of shameless Donaldson, who was busted earlier this month for money spinning fraud offences committed while he was a serving police officer.

COWARDLY

The cowardly ex-cop initially turned socialite agreed to talk to us about his new life as a Twitter and Facebook expert when we called on Friday.

But he quickly backed out after realising we had a damning dossier of his activities that includes seven years of fraud while a serving police officer.

“Okay, I will meet you to talk about this,” Donaldson said initially, agreeing a time and a place before failing to show.

Donaldson is the current toast of the local PR scene.

The 37-year-old can regularly be found mixing with politicians and celebrities at glitzy parties.

In fact, hardly a high-profile event goes by that dodgy Donaldson does not attend.

POPULAR: The ‘Take Back the City’campaign
POPULAR: The ‘Take Back the City’campaign

But what the professionals and PR people who rub shoulders with him do not know is that not only is he a corrupt ex-cop, he is also a conman.

Donaldson appeared in court earlier this month on a charge of pocketing £33,000 from the seven year sale of fake DVDs and was sentenced to two years in jail suspended for two years.

The brass-necked swindler shamelessly showed up at a glitzy restaurant opening in Belfast city centre just a few nights later playing the respectable businessman role to a tee.

Committing fraud while a serving PSNI officer is not the only serious crime Donaldson has been involved in.

In November 2010, while a constable stationed in Dungannon, he used police computers to illegally access the personal details of Audrius Aukstolis, which he passed onto a “female friend”.

Two months later the 29-year-old Lithuanian national — who was facing a rape charge — was stabbed to death in Dungannon.

MISCONDUCT

In January 2012 Gediminas Stauskas was jailed for five years for killing Aukstolis.

A short time later Donaldson was convicted of three counts of unlawfully obtaining personal data from police computers and misconduct in public office.

He was given a nine months in jail but the sentence was suspended for one year.

As part of the anti-corruption investigation into his illegal activities police raided the Donaldson family home at Carryduff on the outskirts of south Belfast.

They were shocked to discover that from a bedroom Andrew was running — while still a serving cop — a sophisticated counterfeit DVD and music copying operation.

The crook made £33,000 flogging the fake goods via multiple Ebay accounts before he was busted.

OUT ON THE TOWN: Donaldson and Norvilyte
OUT ON THE TOWN: Donaldson and Norvilyte

Donaldson was immediately kicked out of the PSNI and ended up suffering from deep depression.

In 2011, when Donaldson was charged with misconduct in public office, a court heard how he had been wandering around Belfast in tears.

His lawyer said: “He is in a deep depression and has been wandering round Belfast crying when he's not with his children.”

But his bad mood did not last long and at the end of 2012 he hit upon the idea of setting up Love Belfast and Take Back the City on the internet with his Lithuanian girlfriend Inga Norvilyte.

There is no suggestion the pretty blonde is involved in any of her partner's wrongdoing or that any business he represents know of his crimes.

Both the Love Belfast and Take Back the City social media businesses they run promote events across Belfast.

Love Belfast has an impressive Twitter following of 90,000 people and delivers non-stop messages about what is going on in the city to its huge audience.

CROOK

Because of this, Donaldson gets invited to virtually every bar and restaurant opening, public relation events, celebrity and political functions.

What he keeps quiet about though, along with his criminal convictions, is that a large percentage of Love Belfast's Twitter followers are from overseas countries with no connection to Northern Ireland.

HIGH LIFE: The conman
HIGH LIFE: The conman

It is at social events, like a restaurant opening he shamelessly attended last week, that Donaldson openly touts for business.

Describing himself as a “social media consultant” the bent ex-cop charges hundreds of pounds for Love Belfast — which is not a registered company — to manage the Twitter and Facebook accounts of local businesses.

He also does work on a pro-bono basis, receiving free meals or drinks in restaurants and bars in return for his services.

Last Christmas disgraced Donaldson approached businessman Naz Din — the owner of the award-winning Nu Delhi Indian restaurant — looking for work.

He said that in return for £100 per month and free meals he would manage Nu Delhi's social media accounts. But canny Naz refused, telling Sunday Life: “Andrew Donaldson wanted £100 per month and free meals for Love Belfast to manage our social media accounts.

“I didn't take him up on the offer because too many of Love Belfast's Twitter followers are from outside Northern Ireland.”

TOXIC

A veteran public relations executive, who asked not to be named, predicts our revelations about Donaldson's convictions for police corruption and fraud will have serious implications for the Love Belfast brand.

She said: “There is no coming back from this for him — what business in Belfast wants a convicted fraudster and corrupt ex-PSNI officer managing their social media? He is now toxic.”

Donaldson's girlfriend and Love Belfast partner Inga Norvilyte contacted Sunday Life to deny he has anything to do with the social media business.

“He is just my boyfriend,” stressed Ms Norvilyte, who also explained that she was not in Belfast as she was working in a Lurgan nursing home.

But Donaldson's CV, which has been on business networking site LinkedIn for over a year, tells a different tale.

It is identical to that of the Love Belfast LinkedIn CV — proof that they are one and the same.

Both resumes have duplicate email addresses, work histories and educational backgrounds.

Unsurprisingly Donaldson does not say on either CV, which he removed on Friday after realising Sunday Life was onto him, that he was booted out of the PSNI for corruption and leaking details on a man who was later stabbed to death.

He prefers to boast of being a “highly motivated and enthusiastic business professional, excellent at juggling multiple tasks and working under pressure.”

Disgraced Donaldson also boasts he has “revolutionised the hospitality and tourism sector” in Northern Ireland via social media.

Andy blows own trumpet on career site

Shameless self-publicist Andrew Donaldson lists “reputation management” and “crisis communications” among his top 50 skills.

But the dodgy Del Boy type, who ran a lucrative fake goods operation while serving as a PSNI constable, was proving very uncommunicative about his own shredded reputation as Sunday Life tried to talk to him about his criminal convictions.

Carryduff PR man Donaldson’s glittering CV on the Linkedin business network site makes no mention of his illegal activities.

Instead Donaldson bigs up his career working in social media, financial services and law enforcement, and gives his contact details as lovebelfastcity@gmail.com.

He says prior to joining the PSNI he was a fixed income bond specialist at Citi.

Donaldson says his role at Citi was to “investigate, interact and resolve cash and position reconciliation issues with International banks” and that he was “responsible for billion Euro trades and liaise with clients from all across the globe”.

He says he was at Citi for eight months before joining the police where he was “an emergency response police officer”.

The former Banbridge-based cop says his duties included “investigating, solving crimes and conflict” — no mention that he was busy committing crimes for years.

He also points out that while an emergency response cop he “was also part of the design team for the introduction of advanced mobile phone technology. A database app and I provided training and workshops on how to use the software as well as beta testing. Social media manager.” He doesn’t mention that he got busted for illegally accessing a police computer and misconduct in public office.

Of his top 50 skills Donaldson names his top four as Krav Maga (martial arts self-defence techniques developed for the Israeli army), Taekwondo, firearms and close protection. Crisis communications and reputation management are listed at 44 and 45 on his impressive list of talents. He says he studied management information and computers at Queen’s from 1994-96 but doesn’t say if he received a qualification.

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