High Court in Belfast orders that missing businessman be jailed

A Donegal based businessman behind an investment scheme, in which dozens of people on both sides of the border fear they have lost millions of pounds, has been jailed for 18 months at the High Court in Belfast.

An order was issued for the immediate arrest of Francois de Dietrich, who has vanished. He was jailed for breaching a court order ordering him to give details of where investors' money was held.

The French national has had his assets in Northern Ireland frozen by the Financial Services Authority, which  also ordered him to stop taking deposits into his scheme.

He denies fraudulent behaviour.

The Financial Services Authority began court action in Belfast last autumn, resulting in an injunction banning Mr de Detrich and his company ETIC Solutions from taking any more deposits.

The order also forced the businessman to freeze £6.8m in assets. The figure has subsequently been increased to £20.2m.

De Dietrich claimed there were big profits to be made by investing in liquidated stock.

Mr Justice Deeny issued a warrant for his immediate arrest this morning, saying he is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this was a deliberate contempt on the part of de Dietrich, who is seeking to evade his obligation to obey an order of the court.

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

No ruling was made on the issue of fraud, but Judge Deeney stated that the court has a reasonable apprehension that many people have been defrauded of large sums of money.

His solicitors say they will appeal the ruling.