Northern Ireland

Francois De Dietrich repayment to creditors 'unlikely'

Francois de Dietrich
Image caption Francois de Dietrich has not been seen since a jail term was imposed on him in January

People owed money by a businessman suspected of a multi-million pound scam are unlikely to get their money back in full, the High Court has heard.

Dozens of people on both sides of the Irish border fear they may have lost millions of pounds invested with businessman Francois de Dietrich.

Mr de Dietrich has had his assets in NI frozen by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

The FSA believes the Frenchman to be behind an illegal investment scheme.

A winding up petition against Mr de Dietrich's firm ETIC Solutions Ltd was put on hold by the High Court on Thursday.

A judge adjourned the application after being told one creditor in the Irish Republic has already obtained an order for 165,000 euros (£146,000) from the company.

With a further hearing in Dublin in May to decide whether to confirm that judgment, his legal representatives urged the court not to take any steps which could impact on the case.

The FSA has already been granted permission to appoint provisional liquidators to ETIC Solutions.

That move was seen as helping to protect creditors in the company headed by Mr de Dietrich, whose whereabouts have remained unknown since he was ordered to serve a prison sentence for contempt of court.

He is appealing against an 18-month jail term imposed in January for failing to fully disclose his worldwide assets.

Although a warrant was issued for his arrest, Mr de Dietrich appears to have gone missing.

'Many, many creditors'

Members of the business community, sporting figures and travellers are thought to have handed over money.

Court proceedings launched by the FSA led to an injunction banning de Dietrich and his company ETIC Solutions from taking any more deposits.

The regulatory body also obtained an initial order freezing more than £20m in assets linked to the businessman.

He has insisted in a statement that his businesses were legitimate and that he was working to return all outstanding money.

FSA lawyers, who applied to have ETIC Solutions wound-up, argued that no adjournment should be granted because the move would be limited to funds in Northern Ireland.

They also claimed that the creditor seeking to put it on hold was seeking to gain an advantage over others.

"His unsurprising ambition would seem to be to make sure he gets his money quickly and before anyone else," one barrister said.

"There are many, many creditors... literally millions of euros in the republic are at stake."

Pointing to a potential disadvantage to others, he added: "On any reading... it looks as if there will not be complete recovery of the monies that have been advanced."

However, granting the adjournment until after the Dublin hearing in May, Mr Justice Deeny commented: "It is preferable that the courts on both sides of the border act in recognition of one another's orders."

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