Bóthar: Bonuses paid to staff under guise of charitable causes, court told

Donations paid to fictional projects to facilitate cash going to staff, High Court hears

During David Moloney's eight years as chief executive of Bóthar, and during the period before that when the late Peter Ireton held the position, cash bonuses were paid to some staff at Christmas while the public was being urged by Bóther to forgo giving Christmas presents and instead give the money to the charity.

These payments occurred without the knowledge or consent of the board of Bóthar, the High Court has been told.

Bogus expenditure on charitable causes were used to justify the cash withdrawals that went to the staff, the court heard.

Donations to Bóthar were paid "to fictional projects that were fabricated by Mr Moloney, and others" so that cash could be paid to the staff, Bóthar chairman, Harry Lawlor, has told the court.


The court was told of €19,201 in November 2018, and €15,610, in 2019, which were nominally withdrawals to fund projects in Albania and Kosovo, but instead went to staff in cash.

The charity's financial manager Elaine Moynihan, "advised me that she was aware that these amounts had been paid to certain Bóthar employees in cash, as 'Christmas bonuses', but were described in Bóthar's accounts as charitable donations," said accountant Barry Robinson, who has been engaged by Bóthar to examine its books and accounts.

In July 2015, Mr Moloney and Mr Ireton withdrew €34,200 in cash from a Bóthar bank account, with Mr Moloney presenting the money as being for a project in Kenya associated with an Irish priest, Fr David Conway.

The Spiritan priest, who now lives in Dublin, has confirmed he never received the money, according to Lawlor.

Mr Ireton, a founder member and former CEO of Bóthar, died tragically in his home last week.

Bank account

The court was told the charity is investigating a joint account that Ireton had with Mr Moloney, which was not in the list of bank accounts the former CEO had disclosed to the charity.

Mr Moloney and Mr Ireton benefitted from withdrawals that never went to an order of nuns who work with the poor in Tanzania.

In a recent letter to Bóthar, Mr Moloney has admitted that he and Mr Ireton benefitted in relation to cash payments totalling €226,000 that nominally went to the nuns, the court was told.

Since then two further bogus payments have been found, for €29,500 in 2011, and €32,350 in 2013.

Mr Moloney has admitted that he and another Bóthar founder, Billy Kelly, who now lives in England, misappropriated payments nominally made by Bóthar to an English company, Agriculture Innovation Consultancy Limited, which was in turn associated with charitable work in Rwanda.

“He admitted that he took £36,000 and that Mr Kelly took £40,000 from these payments,” Lawlor said.

Bóthar has written to English man James Farrand to ask him to assist the Irish charity.

Mr Farrand is the former shareholder and director of the English company, the financial accounts of which indicate it has not traded other than in relation to the sums received from Bóthar.

In October 2006 Bóthar set up a pension scheme for Mr Moloney into which monthly payments were to be made, the court was told, with two-thirds of the money to come from the CEO, and the rest from his employer.

In February 2007, Mr Moloney requested the ratio be reversed, so that two-thirds of his pension was paid by the charity.

Bóthar now alleges this was done without authority, and that the cost to the charity has been €91,302.

Mr Moloney says the funds in this pension are his, and that he intends to use the money to help refund the charity for the funds that he misappropriated.

Mr Moloney admits that a second pension, set up in 2016, involved the misappropriation of money from the charity, the court was told.

Mr Moloney set up this pension by advising Bóthar’s pension broker that it had the approval of the board, according to Mr Robinson. The board now says the pension was not authorised.

"The form signifying Bóthar's consent to the transaction was signed by Ms Niamh Mulqueen, on Bóthar's behalf, on the basis that she was an authorised signatory and/or a director, when she was neither," Mr Robinson told the court. "The direct debit mandate was signed by Mr Ireton."

In total, 59 payments were made to the pension, totalling €81,365, Mr Robinson said.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent