Northern Ireland

Director 'took £52,000' from insolvent hotel company

View across River foyle
Image caption The company went into liquidation on 17 January 2008 owing creditors £293,606

Two County Londonderry women have been banned from acting as company directors due to their misconduct as directors of a firm which ran a Derry hotel.

Caroline Ayton, 52, of Donnybrewer Road, Campsie, Eglinton, was disqualified from directing or managing any companies for nine years and Johanne Patricia Ferguson, 43 of Millgrove Park, Eglinton, was disqualified for four years.

Their firm, Beige Game Trading Ltd, operated the Waterfoot Hotel and Country Club on Clooney Road in Londonderry.

It went into liquidation on 17 January 2008 owing creditors £293,606, with zero assets with which to settle its debts.

When all debt run up by the company was calculated, the total amount owed was found to be £397,006.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Deti) has accepted the disqualifications based on claims of unfit conduct which, for the purposes of the disqualification procedure, were not disputed by Ms Ferguson or Ms Ayton.

The directors accepted that they had failed to pay £116,255 in PAYE, national insurance contributions and VAT between 2005 and 2008.

They also admitted misusing a Bank of Ireland account by bouncing 28 cheques worth a total of £82,902.

Sixty-five direct debits amounting to £101,821 also went unpaid.

Misappropriation

Ms Ayton, who received one of the longer disqualifications in recent years, was also accused of further misconduct by Deti.

The department alleged that she had arranged for the company to lend her more than £5,000, failed to file accounts for the company for nine years from 1984 to 1992 and for a further nine years for the period 1997 to 2005.

For the purposes of the disqualifiaction process Ms Ayton admitted to misappropriating £52,000 from the company after it had ceased trading and was declared insolvent.

Ms Ferguson accepted that she had failed in her responsibility as director by allowing the money to be taken from the company.

She was found culpable of failing to file annual returns for the years 1998 to 2006 and failing to file annual returns from 1998 to 2005.

Since 1 April 2010 Deti has accepted 25 disqualification undertakings and the court has ordered the disqualification of two directors.

By agreeing to a disqualification undertaking, directors, with the agreement of Deti, can avoid the need for a court hearing.

Such an agreement has the same legal weight as a disqualification order made by the court, and normally includes a summary of the director's unfit conduct.

A statement from the department said that it intends to continue bringing disqualification proceedings against "directors of failed companies who have abused the privilege of limited liability status through negligence, incompetence or lack of commercial probity".

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