Northern Ireland

Fugitive businessman Francois de Dietrich loses appeal

Francois De Dietrich and Enda McClafferty
Image caption Spotlight's Enda McClafferty talks to Francois De Dietrich after tracking him down in France

A fugitive businessman at the centre of a suspected multi-million pound investment scam has lost an appeal against an 18-month prison sentence.

Francois de Dietrich had sought to overturn the term imposed for failing to disclose his worldwide assets.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his challenge.

The French man, who was formerly based in County Donegal, failed to turn up for the hearing in Belfast. There is currently a warrant out for his arrest.

Dozens of people on both sides of the Irish border fear they may have lost millions of pounds in investments made in liquidated stock through him.

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

Last month the regulatory body secured a summary judgment against him which enabled it to obtain full control of more than £20m in assets.

That move was separate to proceedings which led to de Dietrich being found in contempt of court for not fully revealing his global financial affairs to the FSA.

The businessman was last seen in France after being located by a crew from BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight.

He was expected to contest the punishment handed down in his absence by claiming it was draconian.

Last week, however, his former lawyers were granted permission to sever links to him.

Despite the barrister and solicitor coming off record, the appeal remained listed for hearing.

'Police interest'

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan was told that de Dietrich was not in the court precincts.

Counsel for the FSA added that police were also in the building and "interested" in finding him.

Sir Declan pointed out that a request for the appeal to be adjourned was refused last month.

"In those circumstances it seems we have no alternative but to dismiss the appeal," he said.

The judge directed that confirmation of the outcome should be sent to the last known e-mail addresses of both de Dietrich and a French lawyer associated with him.

Any bid by him to have the judgment set aside must be lodged within 14 days.

Legal costs were also awarded to the FSA.

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