The jail sentences given to Harry Cassidy, the former chief executive of Custom House Capital (CHC), and three others from the collapsed investment firm were welcomed by former investors who came to the court on Friday to witness the judge’s decision.
“I feel sorry for their families, but I do think they got what they deserved and I think it sends a message out to the financial community in this country that if you are going to screw around with people’s pensions, that you could end up in jail for 14 years,” said Margaret Moore, who runs a photography business with her husband Barry.
Judge Orla Crowe of the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court said she believed a “headline” sentence of 14 years was appropriate for Cassidy (67), before sentencing him to seven years when various mitigating factors were taken into account. He has already served two months in prison in Germany, where he was held on the basis of a European arrest warrant, before returning home and pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud.
“I really commend the judge for pointing out that it was a headline [sentence of] 14 years but was being mitigated down,” Ms Moore said. “A 14-year sentence is sending a message that I hope the financial community will take on board.”
She said she and her husband made an investment with CHC in 2006 as part of their plan for providing for their retirement, but had not lost anything like what many other investors had. She said some had lost hundreds of thousands of euro and “are devastated”.
The headline sentence for Cassidy was “an appropriate message, and mitigating it be seven years was also appropriate. I would like to say thank you very much to the judge and thank you very much to the investigating gardaí because they did a great job.”
It wasn’t the case that the investors were all high net worth individuals, said her husband Barry. “They were normal people with small businesses. They were not high net worth individuals.”
Former CHC head of private clients John Whyte (52) was given a four-year sentence, former financial controller Paul Lavery (47) was given a three-year sentence and former non-executive director John Mulholland (72) was given a one-year sentence.
Brian Reilly, from Malahide, said he will not be getting anything back of the €375,000 pension investment that was placed with CHC on his behalf. He and his wife, he said, are now dependent on the State pension and continuing work.
“The sentences delivered by the court this afternoon could best be described as appropriate, with the notable exception of John Mulholland,” he said. “Look at the devastation he caused to hundreds of people, some of whom have passed away.”
Both Ms Moore and Mr Reilly were strongly critical of the Financial Regulator and the Central Bank of Ireland and called for more to be done to protect pension and other investors.