Accountant dismissed over coursing club spending

Thu, Nov 22, 2012, 00:00

An accountant with the Irish Coursing Club was fired for involvement in a “cover-up” that allowed a former chief executive spend funds on his “personal lifestyle”, the Employment Appeals Tribunal has heard.

Edmund O’Brien of Newmarket, Co Cork, has taken a case against the Clonmel, Co Tipperary-based Irish Coursing Club in relation to his dismissal in January 2010.

In evidence yesterday, club president Brian Divilly said an internal investigation found the club’s books had been “manipulated” and the club had lost up to “a million pounds”.

Mr O’Brien was suspended in September 2009 after he was arrested by gardaí as part of an investigation into the club’s accounts. It was later found he had no Garda case to answer.

He was dismissed the following January because he had “falsified the accounts”, Mr Divilly said yesterday.

“There was over one hundred thousand a year for club funds being wasted on junkets. He, as an accountant, was put in there as the accountant to keep an eye on our affairs . . . There was something going wrong. Obviously Mr O’Brien knew there was something going wrong and he facilitated the cover-up.”

An example of this was that the accounts showed €60,000 more for insurance costs than was spent on an annual basis, he said. “He was misrepresenting our books.” This went on for at least eight years.

During the internal investigation they realised the books were being “manipulated”, Mr Divilly said. “There were items put down to cover expenses by the secretary for his own personal lifestyle.”

Former secretary and chief executive of the ICC Jerry Desmond has since died. The Garda became involved in 2008 when Mr Desmond “wasn’t prepared to answer a lot of our questions”, Mr Divilly said.

Asked by Mr O’Brien’s solicitor, Frank Nyhan, what his client was alleged to have done wrong, Mr Divilly said: “He was recommended for dismissal because he told us he had falsified accounts at the request of Jerry Desmond.”

Money was being spent on “holidays and dining and wining and memberships and so on”, Mr Divilly said. “There was €100,000 buried into more costs for insurance and more costs for grants for [coursing] clubs that the clubs never got.”

He said the money was “robbed, squandered, whatever way you want to put it” and Mr O’Brien “knew that Jerry was overspending”. “On one occasion he gave me three years’ expenses on Jerry’s credit card and he said there were no receipts. He said Jerry was very bad at keeping receipts.”

The case continues today.