High Court freezes UK film producer’s retirement fund
Michael ‘Lionella Boscardi’ Cowan being investigated over alleged fraud
The Four Courts in Dublin
The High Court has made orders freezing a retirement fund belonging to an English-based film producer who is being investigated by the UK authorities over his alleged role in an alleged fraud. The fund, with a current value of £167,000 (€188,000), is held by an Irish-registered financial services company.
The freezing order application concerns monies allegedly paid by Michael ‘Lionella Boscardi’ Cowan, who denies any wrongdoing, into a retirement policy with Hansard Europe DAC, with an address at Windmill Lane, Dublin 2.
It is claimed Mr Cowan paid £500 monthly premiums to the policy held by Hansard from accounts that had allegedly received funds from various film investors. It is accepted the policy commenced before the alleged fraud is believed to have commenced.
The order was made on foot of a request from the UK authorities to the Department of Justice here to recognise an external freezing order made by a London court in 2017 against Mr Cowan, with an address at The Promenade, Peacehaven, Sussex.
The application to recognise the English court’s order was made under the 2008 Criminal Mutual Assistance Act and was granted by Ms Justice Carmel Stewart.
The judge heard the UK authorities are investigating claims that Mr Cowan and others allegedly defrauded some 246 individuals in £11.2 million and laundered those funds through a range of company funds, bank accounts, disbursements to third parties, and personal expenditure between 2012 and 2016.
In a sworn statement from the Department of Justice seeking the freezing order, it is alleged the investors were offered high-return investment opportunities in film productions with benefits coming under the UK’s tax relief scheme should they invest.
The investors were directed, it is alleged, to make payments to entities which appeared to be linked to particular films or productions, and then received investment certificates. These certificates were allegedly either signed by Mr Cowan or another individual.
It is also claimed Mr Cowan was a signatory on the majority of the accounts into which the funds were paid, as well as being a director of the limited companies to whom the payments were made.
The British investigators claim there is no evidence any of the films proceeded an no returns on the investments were provided. When the investors were informed the film productions were in difficulties it is alleged that they were offered the opportunity to reallocate their money to new film projects, which again were never made nor are they in production.
The UK authorities claim, when they commenced their investigation in 2015, Mr Cowan had represented himself as a victim saying his signature had been fraudulently used by another party.
As the investigation proceeded he became a person of interest, resulting in his property being searched and him attending for a voluntary interview with the police, it was stated. Mr Cowan has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed in interviews with the UK police he suffers from stress and has autism. He says he previously raised money for successful film projects and has blamed another individual entirely for any wrongdoing.