Belfast Telegraph

Finance watchdog is handed control of fugitive's £20m

A regulatory body has obtained full control of more than £20m from a fugitive businessman at the centre of a suspected investment scam on both sides of the Irish border.

The Financial Services Authority secured summary judgment at the High Court in Belfast in its case against Francois de Dietrich (below) and his firm ETIC Solutions Ltd.

The order, which involves frozen assets, represents the total amount identified as having been deposited in an alleged illegal scheme. Interest was also included in the order at a rate set at 6%.

Mr Justice Deeny ruled that the FSA was entitled to recover the full losses of ETIC's clients.

He said: “The sum involved only consists of deposits and not of the sums promised to the investors in this illegal investment scheme.”

Mr Justice Deeny declined to fix interest at a more punitive level.

“We don't at this stage know the profits made by the defendants and I'm unwilling to speculate on this at the present time,” he said.

Legal costs were also awarded to the FSA in bringing the application.

The summary judgment, delivered without a full trial of the issues, was for £21,556,576 in total.

An injunction to stop de Dietrich access or moving any funds remains in force.

Scores of people on both sides of the Irish border, many based in the Donegal area, fear they invested in liquidated stock through his scheme.

Businessmen, sporting figures and members of the travelling community are all thought to have handed over money.

Earlier this year ETIC Solutions was wound up by the courts in Dublin and joint liquidators appointed.

By that stage more than £20m in assets linked to de Dietrich had been frozen following the FSA's intervention.

He has insisted that his businesses were legitimate and that he was working to return all outstanding money.

The current whereabouts of the Frenchman, formerly based in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, remain unknown.

In January he was jailed in his absence for 18 months for contempt of court in failing to fully disclose his worldwide assets.

With a warrant out for his arrest, he was last seen in France after being located by television journalists.

Lawyers representing de Dietrich are due to appeal against the prison sentence next month.

They are expected to argued that the order for full disclosure was draconian and that he complied with requirements to reveal all business interests on either side of the order.

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