Stamp auctioneer's epic fraud case ends in acquittal


FROM THE ARCHIVES - JANUARY 25th, 1962:Stamps appeared to be the way to make money fast in Ireland in the late 1950s, thanks to one Paul Singer and the amazing returns – 20 per cent plus in a short period – he offered investors through Shanahan Stamp Auctions in Dún Laoghaire.

It all collapsed, however, and Singer was accused of operating a form of Ponzi scheme, repaying investors with other investors money. Initially jailed for 14 years, he won an appeal and a second trial ended with his acquittal on the judges instructions. Shortly after his release, reported in this lead story, he disappeared from Ireland.

PAUL SINGER, the 51-year-old Bratislava-born Doctor of Philosophy, charged on eight counts of fraudulently converting monies invested in Shanahan’s Stamp Auctions, Ltd, was freed yesterday on the direction of trial judge, Mr Justice Walsh. His freedom came after a 47-day trial in the Central Criminal Court – the longest criminal trial on Irish records.

The bearded doctor celebrated his victory and toasted his counsel [Seán Mac Bride] and solicitors with a glass of water. The man who once claimed that his business accounted for about 60 per cent of the world’s stamp sales says that he believes that the investors in the company will get their money back.

“No one will lose any money at all because the stamps have not yet been sold,” he said. “They have increased in value and those that are now in this country are worth at least £870,000. The value of those which were stolen before the trial is around £450,000, and some of those have been recovered in Switzerland.”

But although Paul Singer is free he is not yet finished with the Irish courts. While he was being tried for fraudulent conversion in the Criminal Courts, the affairs of Shanahan’s Stamp Auctions, Ltd, which is in voluntary liquidation, were before the Bankruptcy Court. Dr Singer was summoned for examination, but this was postponed until the criminal proceedings had been decided.

It was the robbery of the stamps in May, 1959, that helped lead to the liquidation of the firm which had thousands of big and small investors. The stamps were stolen on the day before one of Dr Singer’s biggest auctions – but it did not prevent his holding one of his famous parties at his Dún Laoghaire premises. His staff of more than 30 men and women, as well as dealers, investors and friends of the family drank champagne and beer, stout and brandy until the small hours.

The doctor was a famous party-giver both at his premises, and at his £14,000 mansion, Cairn Hall, at Foxrock, Co Dublin. For one of his parties he flew Edmundo Ros and his band in from London. He hired the Abbey Players to stage a one-act play for his guests and the French cabaret singer Jean Sablon was brought over from Paris.

Yesterday he talked of his future plans. His 25 months in jail and the various court cases have cost him virtually the whole of his personal fortune, he says. “The District Court proceeding alone cost me between £12,000 and £15,000. I had to sell my lovely house . . . Of course the costs of the trial which has just ended will be met by the State.” (An unofficial estimate puts the cost of the various Singer court cases at around £100,000.)

“I am certainly a poorer man than I was when I first came to this country. But I am a happy man – and a tired one . . . If the people of Ireland will have me I would like to stay here. You know, I can relate to Ireland what Austin Chamberlain once said about France – I love Ireland as one loves a woman, and I love her even more because of her faults.”