17-Nov-2011 Source: Insolvency Service
Three connected companies that operated a charity collection scam were last week closed down in the public interest by the High Court in London, following an investigation by Company Investigations of the Insolvency Service.
The companies are Air Ambulance Support Community Interest Company (â€œAir Ambulance Support CICâ€), St Anthony (Trading Co) Ltd (formerly Air Ambulance Service (Trading Co) Ltd) and St Anthony Repatriation Ltd (formerly Air Ambulance Service)). Both St Anthony companies had a common director, Anthony Joseph Durkin. Mr Tomas Mickauskas, a former director of Air Ambulance, worked as a leaflet distributor for the two St Anthony companies.
The investigation found the three companies, primarily targeted residents in the South and Midlands, via â€˜Charity bagâ€™ drop offs and collections and made misleading representations that the proceeds raised from the onward sale of unwanted clothing would be donated to local air ambulance charities. The reality was this did not happen.
Commenting on the case, Investigation Supervisor, David Hill, said;
â€œIn winding-up these companies, the court is sending a clear message that schemes which set out to deliberately mislead the public in this manner are not acceptable and will be closed when we become aware of themâ€.
The investigation also found the companies operated in a similar manner, attempting to pass themselves off as authorised collection agents by making charity bag drops in residential areas, with attached leaflets bearing similarities to the logos of official air ambulance charities, in particular that of Midlands Air Ambulance. At no time throughout their trading histories were they ever authorised by any air ambulance service to act as charity fund raisers.
Due to the failure of all three companies to maintain adequate accounting records, it is not known what became of any proceeds generated through the sale of clothing items collected by the companies. No evidence of donations made to any Air Ambulance Charity was found.
The activities of the companies were also found to be not only misleading but in breach of regulations contained in the House to House Collections Act 1939 concerning door to door leaflet dropping where charitable purposes are included. Essentially the Act requires companies conducting collections for charitable purposes to obtain a licence. None of the companies had done so. Several local authorities had received complaints concerning the activities of the companies including Oxfordshire County Council, Poole Borough Council, Wolverhampton City Council and Leicestershire County Council. Public concern was also expressed in widespread attention given in local publications, including articles in the Worcester News, Gloucestershire News and Burton Mail.
1. The registered office of Air Ambulance is at 236 Lozells Road, Birmingham, B19 1NP. Both St Anthony companies share a common registered office at 28 Bernwood Road, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 6RS.
2. Petitions seeking the winding up of the three companies were presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 22 August 2011.All three petitions were heard on 2 November 2011, at which time the companies were wound up.
3. Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, carries out confidential enquiries on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (â€œBISâ€).
4. The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. The Service also authorises and regulates the insolvency profession; deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures; assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees; provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds; and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice. Further information about the work of The Insolvency Service is available fromÂ www.bis.gov.uk/insolvency.