The BBC programme “Spotlight” tonight will focus on a former Donegal businessman who is said to have taken investors for tens millions of euro.
“The Mystery of Swanky Frankie”, about French entrepreneur Francois De Dietrich, will be broadcast this evening at 10.35 pm on BBC 1 Northern Ireland. Enda McClafferty, a Donegal-based journalist, will present the programme.
Mr. De Dietrich is believed to have left the country in December, after reports of his alleged schemes appeared in the media. But the BBC “Spotlight” team has tracked down and interviewed the fugitive, who has denied any wrongdoing.
The BBC have also said that they will not reveal where Mr. De Dietrich is living, because the man has claimed that his life was in danger from some of the investors whose money has not been repaid.
Though Mr. De Dietrich also operated legitimate businesses from Ballybofey, including restaurants and an estate agency, the ponzi scheme he was said to be running at the same time has been described as having conned more than 200 people into parting with large sums of money. Mr. De Dietrich is alleged to have convinced people to turn over money by promising them what he described as returns of up to 40 per cent in a relatively short period of time.
The businessman reportedly told potential investors that he was buying liquidated stock, such as designer clothing and seats on airplanes, and selling them at large profits.
According to the BBC report, investors in Donegal, Mullingar, Cork, Galway and Dublin are among those who invested in Mr. De Dietrich’s scheme.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) in Northern Ireland froze his assets, and the assets of Etic Solutions Ltd., up to the value of 20 million euro. The FSA move followed suspicions that Mr. De Dietrich was operating an illegal scheme. The Criminal Assets Bureau, the Police Service of Northern Ireland fraud squad and the Garda fraud squad are understood to be among the six different agencies currently investigating the case.
Mr. De Dietrich failed to appear in court last year on an arrest warrant that was issued for him. He is appealing an 18-month jail sentence that was imposed on him in January.
FSA lawyers told the High Court in Belfast earlier this year that it appeared that there would not be full recovery of all the money that had been invested in Mr. De Dietrich’s scheme.
According to media reports, Mr. De Dietrich told the BBC that the Financial Services Authority in Northern Ireland was denying him access to his money and preventing him from paying investors. But the FSA has rejected Mr. De Dietrich’s suggestions that the authority has any responsibility for the businessman’s failure to pay his investors.
Mr. De Dietrich also told the BBC that he may still return to Ireland to appeal his prison sentence, according to reports. The appeal is scheduled to be heard at the end of this months.