Court rules charity Bóthar can file claim against estate of late co-founder
18th October 2021
INTERNATIONAL aid charity Bóthar has been given High Court approval to pursue a claim against the estate of its late co-founder, Peter Ireton, over allegedly stolen donor funds.
Mr Justice Senan Allen agreed to allow the charity to join the personal representative of Mr Ireton’s estate in civil proceedings where it is seeking to recover at least €1.1m it believes has been misappropriated.
Bóthar initiated a case against its former chief executive David Moloney (57) last April, leading to the freezing of his assets, after uncovering evidence he was involved in the theft of funds.
Mr Ireton, who was chief executive prior to Mr Moloney, was found dead at his home in tragic circumstances on April 19, shortly after the proceedings first came before the High Court. He was 68.
Mr Moloney would later swear an affidavit claiming Mr Ireton was heavily involved in the fraud and that together they used elaborate schemes to steal funds for two decades.
According to Mr Moloney, this involved concocting fake projects in Africa and eastern Europe, inventing payments to be made as part of these projects and then keeping the money.
This included €505,000 in cash which was purportedly given to projects run by nuns in Tanzania and Zambia. The projects were fake and the funds were shared by the two men, according to Mr Moloney.
“The logical and legal consequences of his admissions, having implicated the deceased in his actions, is the personal representative of the deceased’s estate should be joined as a co-defendant,” barrister Frank Crean, for Bóthar, told the court.
“It is clear from the evidence Mr Moloney has himself given and investigations Bóthar itself has carried out that there is an issue to be tried as to whether Peter Ireton misappropriated and stole Bóthar’s monies in conjunction with Mr Moloney.”
The court heard Mr Ireton named two executors in his will, his brother Vincent Ireton and Mr Moloney.
Mr Moloney renounced his entitlement to extract a grant of probate, but it had been confirmed by solicitors for Vincent Ireton that he was in the process of applying to extract a grant.
Mr Justice Allen agreed to Bóthar’s application to join Vincent Ireton as a co-defendant.
The judge said he was satisfied on the evidence that Vincent Ireton and his solicitors had been dealing with the matter efficiently and responsibly at all stages.
He noted their application for a grant had been impeded by the fact some papers they need to establish the extent of the estate have been unavailable.
Mr Justice Allen said the absence of a grant at this point was not an impediment to the joining of an executor in the proceedings. However, he cautioned there could not be a judgment in the action until a grant is obtained.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Vincent Ireton. The charity is joining him in the case as, under the Succession Act, all of his late brother’s property now vests in him as executor.
Mr Moloney represented himself during the brief hearing. The court heard he had been deemed eligible for legal aid and had an appointment to meet with the Legal Aid Board.
In an affidavit last May, he claimed his only income was a €203-per-week illness benefit.
Mr Crean signalled to the court Bóthar would be seeking to amend its claim against Mr Moloney to include a Zurich pension taken out by the former chief executive in 2016.
This application is expected to be made when Mr Moloney is legally represented.
In the affidavit, Mr Moloney said the pension was created by himself and Peter Ireton and not approved by the charity’s board. He accepted it was “therefore fraudulent”.
Mr Ireton co-founded the Limerick-headquartered charity in 1991 to export livestock to families in developing nations.
He retired as chief executive in 2011, when he was succeeded by Mr Moloney.
In an interview shortly before his death, Mr Ireton denied any impropriety and said he was “amazed” to learn the charity was investigating alleged payments to him.