Liquidator of Dolphin-linked firm criticises information delays

Delay by directors in responding to questions ‘unsatisfactory’, liquidator tells investors

Hanover-based German Property Group, formerly known as Dolphin Trust, collapsed last year after taking €1.5 billion from investors in the Republic, the UK, Asia and elsewhere.

Hanover-based German Property Group, formerly known as Dolphin Trust, collapsed last year after taking €1.5 billion from investors in the Republic, the UK, Asia and elsewhere.

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The liquidator of a Kildare company linked to a Germany property group which collapsed, resulting in losses of up to €107 million for Irish investors, has criticised delays he is experiencing in getting key information as he investigates the firm’s affairs before it was put into wind-up.

Hanover-based German Property Group (GPG), formerly known as Dolphin Trust, collapsed last year after taking €1.5 billion from investors in the Republic, the UK, Asia and elsewhere since it was set up by businessman Charles Smethurst in 2008. Mr Smethurst’s home was raided by German police in March as part of an ongoing investigation into suspected investment fraud.

Irish investments were channelled to the German group through two special-purpose vehicles, MUT 103 and Dolphin MUT 116, based in Naas, Co Kildare, and set up by Wealth Options Trustees Limited (WOTL), of the same address. All three companies share the same directors: Eanna McCloskey and Brian Flynn. A third director, Paul Dunne, died last October.

Liquidation

MUT 103, an investment vehicle for €41.3 million of retail savings, was put into liquidation in March, and Dolphin MUT 116, responsible for €65.8 million of pension savings, entered liquidation at the end of last month. Liquidators of both are dealing with GPG’s insolvency administrators.

MUT 103’s liquidator, Myles Kirby of Kirby Healy Chartered Accountants, said in an update for investors and creditors, dated June 4th, that he has had “several constructive discussions” with the provisional liquidators of Dolphin MUT 116.

Mr Kirby said that he wrote to the directors of MUT 103 on April 23rd with questions on the company’s statement of affairs before its liquidation. “I await the response to a number of my queries. The delay is unsatisfactory, however, I have been assured by the directors that they will respond shortly,” he said.

He added that it is also “unsatisfactory” that WOTL had not yet responded to his questions on its legal relationship with MUT 103 “and on various other matters, including commissions, fees and division of responsibilities”.

Properties

When GPG collapsed last year it was sitting on 70 properties, mainly run-down and not developed, according to a report submitted to the Bremen bankruptcy court by a preliminary insolvency administrator, Gerrit Hoelzle, last October.

“The originally pursued business model collapsed years ago,” Mr Hoelzle said. “Obviously as a result of the increasing financial shortage, the business model, which was initially focused on real-estate transactions, gradually developed into a pyramid scheme.”

Mr Kirby and the provisional liquidators of Dolphin MUT 116 are currently liaising with a valuer to undertake valuations of assets assigned to both companies in Germany. The security assigned to the properties will be key.

When it first emerged in July 2019 that Dolphin Trust had missed interest payments in the UK, WOTL issued a letter to brokers highlighting how Irish investors were protected, saying it passed on money to Germany only “when we have security in place for a value in excess of the funds loaned”.

When Dolphin Trust told WOTL in late 2019 it would miss interest payments due to Irish investors, the Naas-based firm hired a number of advisers, including law firm Dentons, to try to protect the interests of investors in the Republic.

However, Dentons’ advice provided to the High Court in March said the GPG insolvency administrator believes that all of the loan claims of the Irish MUTs against the German group’s companies are “subordinated and therefore the granted securities could be challenged”. The liquidation of GPG is expected to take years.