Lawyer warns public about possible investement scams

A Belfast lawyer has warned the public to remain vigilant about possible investment scams. The warning comes after hundreds of investors on both sides have become involved in what is alleged to be a fraudulent investmnet scamw which originated in Donegal.

A Belfast lawyer has warned the public to remain vigilant about possible investment scams. The warning comes after hundreds of investors on both sides have become involved in what is alleged to be a fraudulent investmnet scamw which originated in Donegal.

Laura Gillespie has worked with the Financial Services Authority on investigations into allegedly fraudulent schemes.

She said that allegations of fraud were "not uncommon in tough economic times".

"When the money is rolling in, people tend not to ask questions but lean economic times certainly tend to reveal problems."

Ms Gillespie said that investors needed to be alert to "tell-tale signs".

"First, consistently steady returns - if your investment yields say, three per cent, consistently over a period of years, there is so little variation that it might cause suspicion," she said.

"Second, if the investment consistently outperforms funds of a similar nature, something may be awry.

"Like any fraud, the rule of thumb is simple: if it seems too good to be true, it may well be."

Last week a Letterkenny-based French businessman suspected of operating a cross-border investment scam in which investors have lost heavily was ordered to prison.

A bench warrnat was issued for the arrest Franois de Dietrich after a Belfast judge ruled that he had acted unlawfully and had deliberately been in contempt by failing to disclose his business affairs in full to the Financial Services Authority.

The FSA had already obtained court orders freezing 6.8 million of de Dietrich's assets, a figure later increased to 20.2 million.

De Dietrich, who did not appear in court, was ordered to serve 18 months for failing to comply with a series of court orders and therefore being in contempt of court. Under the terms of an earlier injunction, de Dietrich had been ordered to reveal details of his worldwide assets.

The businessman's whereabouts are not known although he is thought to be outside the Northern and Southern jurisdiction. Injunctions are in place to prevent de Dietrich or his company, ETIC Solutions, from taking any further investments. He denies any wrongdoing.