On Sunday January 18th 2009 the following piece appeared in the Sunday Times under the heading:
Agent borrowed €1m
The liquidator of Larionovo, the defunct estate agency, is investigating loans taken out by Ray Norton, the co-founder.
An Irish estate agent whose firm went into liquidation in November, leaving hundreds of buyers of overseas property out of pocket, took out “significant” director’s loans beforehand.
Ray Norton, who co-founded Larionovo with his brother-in-law, Andrew Brett, is understood to have borrowed more than ¤1m since mid-2007. A “large proportion” of this was loaned to Norton in the final six months of last year when the company’s business was drying up.
Grant Thornton, the company’s liquidator, is seeking a meeting with Norton to establish whether he took out the loans while he was aware Larionovo was nearing insolvency. The liquidator, which was appointed by a creditor, has said Norton’s firm sold few, if any, properties in the final six months of last year. It also wants to know why the company collapsed so abruptly given that its most recently filed accounts, for August 2007, showed reserved profits of more than €2m.
Investors who paid deposits on Indian apartments that were never built held meetings last week to establish how to recoup the estimated ¤4m they are owed. More than 300 Irish people, including a senior garda and a retired solicitor, invested in properties in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital. Sums deposited range from €5,000 to €112,000, with many buyers reserving multiple units, said Karen Marshall, speaking for the investors.
“We were told last year that we would all get our money back because the scheme wasn’t going ahead,” she said. “Larionovo said that there were problems with property rights for foreigners in India and difficulties with repatriating money out of India.”
About 30 investors got some or all of their money in the summer, but remaining buyers have had no contact from Larionovo since last month. The investors established that the money sent to Sigrun, the builder of the scheme in India, was returned. “We have a money trail leading to a company in Dubai called Profile, in which directors of Larionovo are involved,” Marshall said.
Norton, 38, and Brett, 48, are majority shareholders in the Profile Group and are directors of Profile Property in Ireland. Grant Thornton is trying to organise a meeting with Profile’s directors in Dubai.
Norton and Brett, who both live in Ennis, Co Clare, could not be contacted for comment.
You'll find the story in the Sunday Times here.