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McVerry Trust ‘ignoring’ potential €65m golden visa scheme donations

Correspondence claims charity not interested in significant pending cash-for-visa scheme donations

The Peter McVerry Trust has been accused of showing no interest in offers of tens of millions of euros in donations raised under a golden visa scheme for wealthy immigrants, despite the financial crisis facing the homelessness charity.

Documents show the trust previously received €8 million under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP), which allowed predominantly Chinese millionaires secure residency in Ireland in exchange for philanthropic donations of at least €400,000.

Blasco Solicitors, who had been involved in raising previous IIP donations for the charity, accused the trust of backing out of plans to accept significant further donations.

In a November 20th letter, seen by The Irish Times, the law firm said the charity was “ignoring all legal obligations” to individuals who had committed to donate funds to the charity. The solicitors claimed pending applications submitted before the IIP scheme closed could “raise an additional €65 million”.

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The law firm said Danny McLoughlin, who was appointed as effective interim chief executive of the trust in October, had shown a “complete disinterest” in the scheme.

The solicitors said they had believed one tranche of €10 million in donations “was going to be approved subject to the submission of certain clarifications by the charity” to Department of Justice officials.

The letter said they had a large number of clients who had applied to the IIP scheme more than a year ago, “who are eager to donate” to the trust, but were now left “in the dark”.

The firm claimed the charity’s failure to help progress the applications was “inflicting reputational damage” on the State. The letter criticised the management of the charity as “far less than optimal”.

Applications for a final phase of donations had been submitted by Blasco Solicitors near the end of a three-month window for certain IIP applications, following the closure of the scheme in February.

The Government closed the scheme on foot of concerns about a surge in applications from China, amid difficulties carrying out due diligence on applicants.

The correspondence from Blasco Solicitors said the trust was also “ignoring” people who had previously made donations under the scheme, who needed formal letters from the charity to renew their residency in Ireland.

The correspondence was sent to Deirdre-Ann Barr, chair of the charity’s board, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

It called on the Government to intervene in the cases and appoint an “administrator” to manage pending IIP donations raised for the charity. Alternatively the law firm suggested its clients be allowed to “transfer” their applications under the scheme to another charity or project, who wished to progress them.

The trust did not respond to questions about the claims made by Blasco Solicitors, while the Department of Justice said it did not comment on individual cases.

Blasco Solicitors was heavily involved in the IIP scheme, submitting more than 550 applications on behalf of overseas investors and donors in total. Alvaro Blasco, who is Spanish, is the principal solicitor in the Maynooth-based firm.

The Government last week approved a bailout of up to €15 million to rescue the Peter McVerry Trust, with an initial €4 million released in recent days. The trust, one of the main providers of homeless services in the State, had been at risk of collapse due to a shortfall in income and mounting debts.

The Charities Regulator and the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority are both separately investigating financial and governance concerns at the charity.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times