Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: 100 banned company bosses and their £200m debt mountain in Northern Ireland

By Adrian Rutherford

More than 100 company directors in Northern Ireland have been disqualified in the last two years - leaving behind a debt mountain that topped £200m.

The case of one couple alone accounted for half the total debt linked to banned directors over that period.

The new figures turn the spotlight on mismanagement in the province's boardrooms.

On average one person a week is banned because of poor financial conduct.

It has meant a spectacular fall from grace for some of our once high-flying business figures.

In one case a Dungannon property developer couple were handed seven-year bans after their firm collapsed, costing creditors more than £100m.

Peter and Jacqueline Dolan ran the Dungannon-based Jermon group, which went bust in 2011 as a result of the property crash.

Economist John Simpson said disqualification was a significant matter.

"A disqualification is a serious debarment and, while it generally doesn't finish people's careers, it is not something you want on your record," he said.

"It means you haven't kept your books properly, or alternatively have gone bankrupt and haven't paid the taxman.

"Often there are very large sums of money involved."

Figures released by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment show 107 directors were disqualified since April 2014. In total they accumulated deficiencies of £210,702,561.

A disqualification order is made by the High Court under the Company Directors Disqualification (Northern Ireland) Order 2002.

It bans a person from:

  • Becoming a director of a company.
  • Directly or indirectly being concerned or taking part in the promotion, formation or management of a company.
  • Being a liquidator or an administrator of a company.
  • Acting as a receiver or manager of a company's property.

Conduct which may lead to disqualification includes continuing to trade to the detriment of creditors when the company was insolvent; failing to keep proper accounting records, and not submitting tax returns.

According to DETI's figures, 36 directors were disqualified in the last 12 months, owing creditors a combined £25,292,029.

In 2014/15, a further 71 directors were banned, with deficiencies totalling £185,410,532.

More than half of this figure related to Jermon Ltd.

Mr and Mrs Dolan were disqualified in October 2014 - three years after their company folded.

It had borrowings of more than £190m from various banks. When the firm collapsed its assets were valued at just £91m.

At the time of disqualification, their deficiencies were disclosed as £107,700,058.

The second highest debt bill, some £21,127,016, related to EASSDA Limited.

The company went into administration in November 2009 with estimated total assets of £11.84m, and liabilities to creditors of £32.93m.

In 2014 four directors were disqualified for between seven and eight years.

One of the most high-profile cases saw the former boss of the scandal-hit Northern Ireland Events Company handed a 14-year ban.

Janice McAleese was chief executive from 2003 until it went bust in 2007, leaving the taxpayer to underwrite debts of £1.6m.

Her conduct was described by the Northern Ireland Audit Office as the worst ever by a public official.

The notice of her disqualification in February carried a litany of failures. These included falsifying accounting records, making payments of £486,000 without documentation, and failing to disclose a conflict of interest.

Directors can be disqualified for between two and 15 years.

Failing to comply with the terms of an order is a serious criminal offence and usually leads to prison.

Belfast Telegraph