Ciara Kelleher trial – jury hear transcripts of accused’s interview with gardaí

Padraig Conlon 07 Feb 2023

By Eimear Dodd

A former financial services manager told gardai in 2016 that she was “absolutely not” involved in a conspiracy to defraud investors in Custom House Capital over a decade ago, her trial has heard.

Transcripts of interviews Ciara Kelleher (51) gave to gardai following her arrest on March 29, 2016, were read to the jury on the sixth day of the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial today.

Kelleher of Blackhorse Ave, Dublin 7, has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiring with others to defraud investors in and clients and customers of Custom House Capital (CHC) Ltd. by intentionally misleading them as to where or how their assets had been placed in the investment firm.

The offences are alleged to have happened within the State on dates between October 2008 and July 2011.

Transcripts of the interviews were read to the jury by Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting.

Ms Kelleher told gardai she was “absolutely not” involved in a conspiracy to defraud and deceive clients of CHC.

When asked if she had any involvement in the misappropriation of client funds, Ms Kelleher denied this, saying “definitely not”.

Ms Kelleher told gardai that her job in CHC was in customer relations and she also provided support to John Whyte, who was CHC’s investment director and head of private clients.

She said she started working at CHC around 2007 and later managed her own team, which issued quarterly statements to clients and took calls from customers.

She said a different team carried out client valuations.

The defendant told gardai that she’d never heard of a ‘Valovis’ bond and had no involvement in the sale of bonds.

Ms Kelleher told gardai they would need to ask Harry Cassidy, CHC’s CEO, and Paul Lavery, CHC’s head of finance, when things started to go wrong at the company.

She also said she didn’t know about the sale of part of CHC to Appian or that the business was in difficulty towards the end.

When gardai put it to her that her signature was on valuations with false figures sent to clients, Ms Kelleher said a template was used with her name on it.

Ms Kelleher also accepted that she had helped Brian Cahalin, head of compliance at Appian Asset Management, by providing documents, but said she couldn’t recall doing this.

Ms Kelleher told gardai that she disagreed with a statement made by Mr Cahalin in relation to two meetings she had with him on July 11, 2011.

The defendant said she had gone to meet the Central Bank, but was not sure that it was on the same day.

In his evidence earlier in the day, Brian Cahalin told Michael Bowman SC, defending, that his client had helped him by providing assistance and documents when he visited CHC’s offices.

Mr Cahalin agreed that Ms Kelleher had voiced a concern to him about the mistiming of client statements during a meeting at a coffee shop on July 11, 2011.

He said he could not recall Ms Kelleher telling him that she said she wouldn’t do this or that she had escalated this to Mr Whyte.

Mr Cahalin said he met with Ms Kelleher at Starbucks near the Central Bank’s offices at 12pm that day as she’d indicated a willingness to speak to the regulator.

The witness said Ms Kelleher took a call, then changed her mind about meeting the Central Bank.

Mr Bowman said it is his client’s recollection that she met Central Bank employees in the company of Mr Cahalin at the regulator’s office.

The witness said the meeting could have happened, but he doesn’t recall it

Mr Cahalin agreed that he never suggested to Ms Kelleher that she’d done something wrong or was in trouble.

He acknowledged that his notes were not contemporaneous, but had been written a few days later.

The witness agreed that he may have made these notes under legal advice as preparations were made to apply for an injunction due to concern about the risk to CHC client funds.

However, this was not necessary as the Central Bank acted. Mr Cahalin said the notes were also for an enquiry by the regulator.

The trial continues before Judge Orla Crowe and the jury.

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