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Working for Marc Godart: ‘Paper directors’, shadow Airbnb accounts, ruthless staff practices

Investigation: A cache of documents spans internal communications, contracts, invoices, audio and video


On Saturday, October 21st last year landlord Marc Godart sent a message to a chat group used to communicate with the workers running his Irish property operations.

“Please update me” about advertisements seeking “nominee shareholders” and “nominee directors”, he asked the group, instructing them to get in touch with the online recruitment platform Indeed.

Such roles typically involve the appointment of a new person to fulfil legal requirements and appear on company documentation, something that can help keep the true owner’s identity private. “It is a passive position,” Godart wrote.

Unanswered, on Monday Godart reiterated the messages. A worker informed him that they had spoken to Indeed, but there could be a problem.


'He must be fired immediately' - how landlord Marc Godart punishes employees for cooperating with the authorities

Listen | 30:45

“The platform does not allow posting positions as shareholders or as paper directors, also known as nominee directors, as this could result in crimes such as fraud and tax offences,” the worker warned.

“Indeed customer service has confirmed that for a director position in a company, there must be a salary proportional to the position with monthly or annual payment information, and all legal requirements of the country where the position is posted must be met.”

Nevertheless, the plan went ahead, and a worker drew up a contract for the nominee director position that listed duties such as “remote assistance in creating a company’s bank account in Ireland”. The contract offered €50 per company filing, a reference to the regular financial returns and other documentation that company directors are legally required to submit to public records. Costs would be covered if the director is “required to travel to Ireland” to undertake the required formalities in person.

The revelation is among a fresh cache of documents from within the Godart operation seen by The Irish Times, spanning internal communications, contracts, invoices, payment proofs, audio recordings and video footage, showing the internal workings of an Irish property empire that had 37 people working within it by last summer, according to internal chat records.

The data has been cross-referenced with public company records and interviews with multiple people familiar with Godart’s operation.

The material reveals attempts to establish new companies under the identities of people unconnected with Godart and his family to avoid public scrutiny of his property operations; the offering of payment to workers who find people willing to allow the use of their identity to set up an Airbnb account; and ruthless working conditions in which workers were docked pay for a range of perceived infractions, including quitting.

Godart’s family began to invest in Irish property after the financial crash in 2008 and he has led the management of an extensive rental operation for several years through a web of companies set up in the names of himself and his parents.

“Do not use any illicitly obtained information for your reporting please and do not rely on information unless I have confirmed it is correct,” Godart wrote in a WhatsApp message on Friday in response to a request for comment. He did not respond to detailed questions on the substance of this article.

In response to Godart’s requests to advertise for nominee directors, a worker took charge of drawing up the Indeed advertisement and posted the draft on the group chat.

The position was entitled “nominee directors and secretaries (Ireland)”.

“There is a chance we will be banned but let’s give it a try,” the worker warned. Indeed did not respond to a request for comment.

The advertisement sought candidates who were resident either in Ireland or the European Economic Area, who were needed “to support our clients’ legal requirements in Ireland”. A chat discussion laid out that Irish law would require at least one director to be Irish-resident, and that they would need to provide their identification.

“Ps: The address and the electricity bill can be generated by us,” the worker wrote.

The draft advertisement read that “individuals in these roles do not have access to company bank accounts or decision-making authority”.

Applications were received and a candidate was interviewed on December 15th, company documents and chat records show.

“We interviewed him on Friday... Marc agreed”, the worker announced three days later. “We have the new director.”

The contract drawn up for the hire stipulated that the responsibility of the nominee director would include “residency in the Republic of Ireland or one of the countries in the EU”, “remote assistance in creating a company’s bank account in Ireland” and “fulfilling other legal obligations”.

The hours of work were “limited to a maximum of eight hours per year, as this position is non-executive in nature”. The pay was “€50 per filing, payable after providing the necessary information for each filing”.

“In the event that the nominee director is required to travel to Ireland, the company will cover the costs of the flight and accommodation,” the contract read.

Prior to trying to hire through Indeed, Godart had sought to enlist people who worked for him as directors, according to company records and sources familiar with the situation

Godart, whose Irish property operation includes everything from flats filled with bunk beds in central Dublin to properties in Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, holds multiple positions as director or secretary in a long list of Irish-incorporated companies. His mother and father, Denise and René, hold various positions too, in companies that are typically registered to their Luxembourg home address.

Several sources who have worked with Godart said he began to seek other people to serve as directors or secretaries in companies because he reached the limit of the maximum number of positions himself set down in Irish law.

Prior to trying to hire through Indeed, Godart had sought to enlist people who worked for him as directors, according to company records and sources familiar with the situation.

Valendale Limited and Shinetop Ltd were set up in early 2023 as the vehicle for managing a property interest on Suffolk Street in Dublin, with directors and secretaries who worked for Godart as contractors. They were listed as living in addresses where Godart runs rental properties.

One director of both companies whose address was given to be in a Godart rental property in Ireland was actually living in another European Union country at the time, and flew to Ireland for a six-day trip in early 2023 to undertake formalities related to setting up the company, according to travel records and people familiar with the situation.

Messages written by Godart state that he was concerned that using his own name and that of Green Label Property Investments Ltd, previously his main vehicle in Ireland, drew unwelcome media attention.

“We want to keep properties apart because I knew about the angry tenants and the risk of articles against me,” Godart explained in one message sent in August giving his rationale for setting up Shinetop and Valendale.

“Setting up new property with my name in news would have been unwise... Best for my name or Green Label not to appear during this time.”

Godart had been the subject of media coverage about his eviction of tenants that year, including an Irish Times investigation tracing the origins of the family’s property empire.

He also sought to distance the Green Label name from cases involving disputes with tenants before the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), messages and documents suggest.

In another message to workers, Godart wrote that he had given instructions to avoid the use of the Green Label name regarding RTB cases.

A document entitled “email address RTB” lists a string of email addresses set up in a range of alternative names, such as Windsor Fairview, Woodfield, Cork Street and Earls Commercials. A document entitled “Strategy for hearing notice” for an RTB hearing in September states that the landlord should be given as “Capel Inn”.

The solution to problems the Godart operation encountered in letting beds over Airbnb was similar: use other names.

In April, it emerged poor reviews meant Godart properties that had been posted on the accommodation service were not showing up in search results, according to internal messages. In response, the Godart operation imposed a €25 fine on each of the seven workers who had been handling Airbnb lettings.

To try to fix the issue, a novel solution was found.

In April, a worker updated colleagues to say the team working on Airbnb lettings was now setting up new accounts using the identities of other people.

A series of messages between workers in May recount that an employee had found a friend who was willing to allow the use of his ID in return for payment. He shared an email, phone number, passport number and password set up under his friend’s name, and promised to follow up with three more new Airbnb accounts.

An Airbnb account registered to the email was active when checked early this year. In response to a request for comment, Airbnb said it took such reports seriously. The Airbnb host account was suspended this week, pending an investigation.

Staff such as cleaners of Godart properties were frequently paid not directly by a company account, but instead through other workers who were sent money and told to pass it on from their personal accounts, according to multiple payment records and former contractors

The worker promised to get three more accounts in the following days. An invoice shows the worker billed Green Label Property Investment Ltd for €200, an amount that workers were told had been approved by Godart. A payment record shows a transfer of €200 from Green Label Properties Investment Ltd.

Over messages, the worker was instructed to keep €50 for himself and send on €150 to the friend whose passport was used to open the account.

Staff such as cleaners of Godart properties were frequently paid in this way: not directly by a company account, but instead through other workers who were sent money and told to pass it on from their personal accounts, according to multiple payment records and former contractors.

Such practices began to cause alarm among some people working within the Godart operation. In August, a woman who had been working in accounting requested to quit.

“I’m not good at lying,” she wrote as she quit. “It’s difficult for me to deal with those hiding things.”

She had been asked to open a bank account for Shinetop Ltd, and a “third company” to be used as a vehicle for operations in Suffolk Street. “I won’t do that,” she wrote, fearing “the judge will only blame the accountant... I could be the one who got blamed.”

The worker wrote of her alarm as AIB began to ask questions about the setting up of accounts, with the bank refusing to establish one for the Luxembourg-registered Godart company, Itzig Sarl. “I think there’s something wrong,” she warned.

Godart reacted to the resignation with impatience, acknowledging that his operations and revenue were divided between many different companies and defending the practice as advantageous. There had been little problem opening multiple accounts with banks, he wrote.

One reason for the multiplicity of companies is to spread revenues around the organisation to remain under the threshold for VAT, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Reflecting later, Godart suggested it would be better to hire people based outside Ireland in the future.

“My feeling is that if people do this kind of ‘dirty work’... is better to hire from abroad so they do not get into contact with local leftish views,” Godart wrote after the accounting worker quit.

“They will think less about local opinion of small Ireland.”

It wasn’t really “dirty work” anyway, Godart reasoned in the message, but rather “learning to optimise tax which is a highly sought after skill”.

Based out of offices located in Godart rental properties in central Dublin, the Godart operation frequently hires people from Latin America who are in Ireland on student visas, a similar demographic to the market targeted for its low-end rental operations that lets individual bunk beds to adults housed as many as six to a room.

Some workers started out as tenants and were initially recruited to do favours for Godart, showing properties and finding new customers for his properties.

He also employs a team of handymen, often from Poland, who do the tough jobs of evictions, removing tenants’ possessions and changing locks, according to former workers.

In recent years, the Godart operation expanded to contract freelances overseas for roles such as responding to queries from tenants or dealing with company paperwork, in countries including Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Nigeria and Morocco, according to internal communications.

This presented a problem. To pay the overseas workers, money-transfer services were requesting high fees.

One worker who went to a Western Union transfer service to send payments to overseas contractors told Godart that they were told “we shouldn’t use platforms to send money from people’s salaries without paying the corresponding taxes in the countries where the money originates and where it is received”.

Over a voice note, the boss suggested a solution. “My preferred choice would be to open them Revolut accounts in Europe,” Godart said in the voice recording.

“Pls give an Irish address to all remote workers so they open REVO or WISE accounts here,” he wrote in a further chat message. “Open for them, we have their passports, address Woodfield.”

“People can have addresses here with us,” he added later.

Workers are employed as a rule as freelance contractors, rather than employees. During 2023, Godart instructed that their contracts should read that workers are hired by Itzig Sarl, one of his family’s Luxembourg companies, rather than by an Irish-based company

A worker later updated Godart to say that they had “tried to set up Wise – Revolut accounts for the remote guys from El Salvador and Mexico”. However, the attempt had not been successful: both mobile banking services required an Irish mobile number to verify accounts through video calls.

“If you really want to try it, you should get a mobile phone for them and register their SIM card in this phone,” the worker explained, before adding a warning. “We could also potentially face legal issues because we might be reported for identity impersonation for Wise or Revolut.”

Godart responded in a brief message: “Easy way out: send SIM cards to them.”

The worker added another warning: “Creating accounts with false locations is legally quite delicate.”

The idea of creating bank accounts with false locations for remote workers ran aground from there, according to sources familiar with the situation. Revolut and Wise declined to comment.

The dilemma over how to pay people based outside of Ireland reflects the growing pains of an operation which had grown to encompass 37 different workers, according to a message sent by Godart in July last year.

Workers are employed as a rule as freelance contractors, rather than employees. During 2023, Godart instructed that their contracts should read that workers are hired by Itzig Sarl, one of his family’s Luxembourg companies, rather than by an Irish-based company.

“The reason is we don’t want to be exposed to any prosecution if we do not get along with an employee or a person that works for us,” Godart explained in a voice note.

“If we specify that Luxembourg law applies and we pay from a Luxembourg account and maybe we can make the [employing company] Itzig Sarl. Add this to the contract please.”

Listen: Marc Godart hopes Luxembourg law will help him avoid 'prosecution'

Listen | 00:33

Two documents, called a “service agreement” and “commercial rules of collaboration” set out the conditions under which workers are hired. They state that workers are hired as an “independent contractor” and “not as an employee”.

They set out that unless “approved to work from home”, contract workers should work from the company’s office, which has at different times been located in Westmoreland Street or in Reuben House in Dublin 8 where Godart rents out apartments.

“Hours of work are 10:00am to 7:00pm Irish time,” the agreement states. Breaks are unpaid.

The agreement sets out that the workers are employed for a 12-month period, which automatically terminates at the end of the year unless mutually agreed.

“If a resignation is sought before this 12-month period, the payment equivalent of the last 30 worked days will be retained,” the agreement reads. It states that the company can let workers go at will with seven days’ notice.

The agreement sets out in detail the different fines that will be applied to workers’ pay for different infractions. The company can withhold payment for “poor quality of service”, “irresponsiveness”, or “any loss of earnings”. In contrast, a bonus of up to €250 can be given for good performance and workers may be paid for their training period if agreed.

Deductions range from €5 if a worker is 10 minutes late to a team call; €10 if they are 20 minutes late; €5 for not sending a daily list of activities over WhatsApp; €10 for not sending a daily voice note reading their due diligence report over WhatsApp; to €3 rising to €6 for not updating an Excel spreadsheet.

Failing to answer calls results in the deduction of an hour’s pay, while €1 is deducted for each day workers fail to fill out their availability in a calendar.

In early June last year, a CCTV camera watching over a kitchen in a Godart rental property on Railway Street recorded strangers in the house: inspectors with clipboards, apparently from Dublin City Council.

In the footage seen by The Irish Times, the inspectors have encountered a cleaner who does not speak English, and have been put on the phone to the manager in charge of cleaning staff to explain the situation.

“We’re just here to find out,” the CCTV camera records one inspector to say. “That would be much appreciated. So I’ll give her back the phone here, and you’ll pass her on the codes?”

Later footage shows the inspectors measuring the space between the property’s walls, as the cleaner mops in the background. Dublin City Council confirmed that an inspection by environmental health and planning enforcement officers took place at a property on Railway Street on June 6th, and that staff working there had given access.

Authorised officers of Dublin City Council are “authorised to enter on any land at all reasonable times for any purpose” connected with the 1966 Housing Act, a spokeswoman said. At the time of inspection the property was unoccupied with no evidence of tenants, and therefore “enforcement action was not pursued”.

The footage provoked a furious reaction from Godart. The recordings did not make clear who had allowed the inspectors to enter. But nevertheless, he ordered both the cleaner and the manager who spoke to Dublin City Council to be immediately sacked.

Listen: Marc Godart demands workers be 'fired immediately'

Listen | 00:58

“Retain all his salary and get him out immediately... He has to be fired immediately, removed everywhere, pay without, and full registry of fines applied,” Godart instructed in a voice message.

Godart noted that the cleaner did not understand English and had only done what she was told. Nevertheless, “I think this cleaner should be fired as well to send the right signal,” he concluded.

Godart ordered that a further worker, whose job had been to monitor the CCTV, should be docked €100.

Messages show Godart ordering salary deductions for various infractions, such as €50 or €100 for having disorganised files. In some messages he orders pay to be withheld outright

Workers responded with an appeal for understanding, saying those concerned were from Latin America and afraid of defying authorities for fear of being deported or getting in trouble with the law. Refusing to pay them the last month worked would leave them with no money to subsist in Dublin, they told Godart.

Unmoved, Godart said the two workers who spoke to Dublin City Council should be made to work three further days before being told they would be let go, and be paid no wages for the past month worked.

“The damage they caused is much, much higher. I block all payments to these people... let them work until Sunday,” he instructed. “Work until then” but “no pay”.

His instructions were defied, and the workers were informed they were being let go, without first being made to work additional days.

The worker whose pay was docked for failing to immediately spot the entrance of Dublin City Council inspectors over CCTV subsequently spent the “entire day” in the office complaining about pay deductions, Godart wrote in a message later in June.

“Make sure she completes her term,” Godart instructed. “Freeze all payments for her.”

He instructed for a phrase to be added to worker contracts, reading that “access to buildings cannot be actively or passively granted to any unauthorised person”.

Throughout 2023, changes to contracts and deductions of pay that appeared to workers to be done on a whim worsened relations between Godart and his workers.

They complained of a difficult work environment. One wrote of “pressure all the time, seeing messages during weekends etc”. Another threatened to quit when €300 was retained from multiple workers for “investigations” about loss of income last spring.

One complained of “constant disrespect, micromanaging, and blame-pointing”.

“But what do we do if the blame is deserved?” Godart responded.

Messages show Godart ordering salary deductions for various infractions, such as €50 or €100 for having disorganised files. In some messages he orders pay to be withheld outright.

One worker emailed her resignation in October saying she had been “violently shoved... against a wall” in the company’s Westmoreland Street office by an angry tenant of a commercial property, and requested that she be paid until that date, and for compensation for her phone screen that was damaged in the incident.

In response, Godart sent instructions for the frequency of payments to be changed.

A special deterrence should be created to stop further people quitting without notice, he wrote. Payments should be sent at a four-week delay, he instructed, so that any workers who quit risked forfeiting a month of pay.

“With people resigning without notice period we need to come up with a special punishment,” he wrote to workers. “They think they can do this and nothing will happen, instead of working 1 month for free for transition as is the agreement. We have to deter this behaviour.”

He ordered for pay to be sent out to workers from then on with four weeks’ delay, so that they “always have 4 weeks at stake to lose if they breach the contract”.

In response, workers warned Godart that the people working for him were freelances and did not have to accept such conditions, and that increasing numbers of people would quit.

In a series of messages in October, one departing worker let rip at Godart, telling him of a range of infractions he saw in the company including the employment of people in Ireland on non-EU student visas as freelance contractors, a breach of their visa conditions.

“Talking about opening accounts overseas for people who are living currently in different countries, making payments through several different accounts, but not using one account belonging to the company, asking people to bend and bow down in front of you,” the worker fumed.

“I don’t like to operate in a business where the law is an option.”