Myles Kirby is a specialist in unlocking byzantine corporate structures. A founding partner with Kirby Healy, a boutique insolvency practice, Kirby has a track record in working on complex liquidations, many of which straddle multiple jurisdictions.
He was drafted in by the Revenue Commissioners back in 2018 to liquidate Peter Conlon’s online fundraising platform Ammado. Conlon was subsequently banned from acting as a company director for 16 years due to fraudulent trading having served time in a Swiss prison.
He is currently liquidating MUT 103 Ltd, an Irish investment vehicle used to funnel money into the collapsed German Property Group (GPG), formerly known as Dolphin Trust, and he has recently launched legal proceedings against ten parties connected to the scheme.
Since early 2021, he has been the liquidator of Lux Estate Capital Group. It is not as high-profile as Ammado, nor does it have the financial scale of MUT 103, whose creditors are owed around €42 million. Indeed, Kirby’s barrister Arthur Cunningham conceded it was “not the most complicated case of fraud”.
He made the statement last week as the High Court disqualified the company’s director Lukasz Salamander for 15 years, the second longest such censure on record after Conlon’s 16 years.
But the case highlights the lengths that some people will go to to convince others to hand over cash, including in this instance, using images of a lion’s head and Elon Musk on its promotional literature.
It also shows the lengths that some people will go to to unravel the truth. In this instance, much of the credit goes to Peter Boyle, a Dublin solicitor who was approached by a concerned investor in Lux Estate Capital Group.
And the more Boyle investigated, the more he realised that those concerns were well founded. By the time he petitioned the court to have Kirby installed as liquidator, he was confident enough to tell the High Court that the company was using online platforms to procure monies “by way of bogus investments in property”.
He also discovered that Salamander was not even his real name. Instead, in his home country of Poland, he was known as Lukasz Salamandra, and under that name, he had been found guilty of fraud and fined by the Polish authorities. Far from being a conduit to the world of luxury investing, Lux Estate Capital Group was incorporated in a housing estate in Athboy, Co Meath.
The scheme was simple if not all that sophisticated. For a start, the company gave itself a stately logo, a black and white outline of a lion, with a small r attached to suggest that it has been trademarked.
Using a picture of Elon Musk, the company asked its followers on Instagram to “Be part of it”, boasting that silver members of its private investment club get an 8 per cent return on their capital. The company purported to be involved in real estate investments in various countries, primarily in Spain.
On social media, Salamander declared that 300 investors had signed up to date and that his goal was to “create the first and only Mobile Private Investment Club that allows members from all over the world to join and invest with only click”.
When potential investors expressed an interest, Salamander quickly supplied them with shareholders’ agreements and shareholders’ plans, all emblazoned with the trademarked lion and outlining how, for just €40,000, they would receive €4,000 on the 25th of each month thereafter.
Katarzyna Kryzaznowska was one of those who signed up. Salamander and her sister had been in a relationship between 2015 and 2019 and had a child together. At the time, he told her that the company had a net worth of €7.06 million and that this was reflected in shares issued to various parties through various shareholders’ agreements. The documents indicated that she would receive 1 per cent of the company for a payment of €40,000. In addition, the paperwork said that if Kryzaznowska invested €40,000, she would receive monthly payments of €4,000.
Within weeks, things began to unravel. Having been due to receive €4,000, Kryzaznowska only received €2,500. As it transpired, this was the last payment she ever received from the business.
It was her approach to Boyle that ultimately triggered the collapse of the firm and the disqualification for its director.
Salamander failed to appear at the hearing last week despite being requested to do so, and, according to Cunningham, he showed a “lack of remorse” for his actions in correspondence with Kirby.
Before the liquidation, Salamander ran a slick line on social media. A self-described “successful entrepreneur over 18 years in business” Salamander says he started a transport business when he was still in his teens, following it up with a marketing agency, West Group. “Salamander founded Lux Estate Capital Group to dominate the real estate market and change the way of investing in luxury real estate forever,” according to one social media profile.
On Friday, his LinkedIn page had been removed. For investors, the damage has been done.
Elsewhere last week, we conducted a number of interviews with venture capitalists. On Thursday, Tom spoke with Jonny Cosgrave and Peter Garvey, who are behind Melior Equity Partners. They talked at length about sourcing the right companies, talk about strategic acquisitions, good foundations and adding value.
Impact investing is underdeveloped in Ireland, a problem US-born Faye Walsh Drouillard aims to address. She talked to Rosanna about the VC climate in Ireland, the power of impact investing, and the difficulties getting established as a female investor.
With around half their work originating overseas, satellite offices in New York, London and San Francisco have become increasingly essential for corporate law firms such as McCann Fitzgerald and Arthur Cox. Francesca looked at the growing importance of foreign markets for Irish lawyers.
A significant ruling for gig economy workers has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Delivery drivers will continue to be contractors and any decision to bring in a new category of employment is back in the hands of the Oireachtas. Rosanna had the story.
I looked at the recent queue chaos at Dublin Airport, reporting how the DAA offered fabulously handsome redundancy packages to staff at the height of the crisis, reckoning it would have time to replace them with lower-paid workers when the economy recovered. However, as I outlined, the plan’s flaws are now apparent.
Finally, a word of congratulations to Barry Lunn, whose company Provizio was last week named as the winner of the KPMG Global Tech Innovator Competition 2022 – Ireland. Provizio, a sensor pioneer that plans to create new software and hardware to bring road deaths down to zero, was one of eight cutting-edge companies on the shortlist.
The company will now compete against top tech firms from 22 other countries for the title of KPMG Global Tech Innovator in Lisbon in November. Tom has spoken to Barry at length before about his journey. It is a great read if you missed it.