THE publishers of a controversial booklet which offers under 12s detailed information about hard-core drugs have close family and business links with a convicted fraudster who masterminded a similar, €1 million scam in the UK.
Andrew Bates - a director of Dublin publishing firm Carroll-Dillon - is the younger brother of Ian Bates, who was lucky to escape with a suspended sentence when he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud four years ago.
Carroll-Dillon Publishing, whose Irish activities were exposed by Irish National Teachers Organisation president John Carr, also paid for Ian Bates, 44, to stay at a four-star Dublin hotel earlier this year.
Ian Bates fled to Ireland after his conviction at Manchester Crown Court in 2002.
Although disqualified from becoming the director of a UK company for five years, he set up a string of short-lived publishing ventures in Ireland, all of which have since been dissolved.
However, in March 2005, his younger brother Andrew, aged 41, and Violet O’Sullivan – the 50-year-old wife of a business partner Barry O’Sullivan – founded Carroll-Dillon Publishing, which trades from a small backstreet office in Herbert Lane, Dublin 2.
Barry O’Sullivan – who is not a director of Carroll-Dillon – claimed never to have heard of Ian Bates – and insisted that Bates’ brother Andrew was only a ‘nominal’ director of the company.
Last week, INTO president John Carr slammed Carroll-Dillon publication Issues: A Child Protection Handbook as being totally unsuitable for children.
The teachers’ leader also condemned the tactics employed by Carroll-Dillon, which approaches private businesses around the country and asks them to sponsor 30 books at a cost of €250 for their local national school.
The batch arrives at the school shortly afterwards – without prior consultation with teachers, school management or parents – with a credit for the sponsoring company on the front page.
Mr Carr said his union has received a substantial number of complaints from teachers about the book.
It has not been approved by the Department of Education though 35,000 copies have been distributed to 400 primary schools.
Carroll-Dillon boasts of connections with top building firms like Laing in the UK and the London branch of the GAA – for whom they produced a yearbook.
But their modus operandi is uncannily similar to that which landed Ian Bates in the dock of a Manchester courthouse in 2002.
O’Sullivan last night insisted: “I have never heard of a man called Ian Bates nor have I ever had any business dealings with a man by that name.
“There is a man called Andrew Bates who is more of a nominal director and the last time I spoke to him was last November.”
Amazingly – despite the fact that he said he only employs Andrew Bates on “an accountancy level” – he claimed not to be able to provide a contact number for Bates, or even the UK arm of his own publishing company.
He added: “I’ve got nothing to hide.”
O’Sullivan’s reluctance to discuss his links to Ian Bates – whose March 20, 2006 stay in Rm 379 of Dublin’s Mespil Hotel was booked by Carroll-Dillon Publishing – is understandable.
The former debt-collector ran an elaborate scam which netted him and colleagues more than £750,000 (€1m) by conning people into thinking an anti-drugs booklet for children and published by his UK firm Fullerton Publications was legit.
Well-meaning small businesses were persuaded to hand over cash to pay for adverts in booklets Bates wrongly claimed had official police, government and National Union of Teachers backing.
Telesales staff tricked more than 7,000 people into believing they were helping in a nationwide crime prevention initiative that would reach 300,000 UK schools.
The sales teams were also instructed to pretend the people they called that they had actually been contacted previously and had already agreed to buy ads in the bogus booklets.
Premier Services – a debt recovery company linked to Bates and his colleagues – mailed threats of legal action to anyone who refused to pay for the adverts.
The threatening letters were sent on out-of-date county court forms and despite never having agreed to buy adverts, people still paid up.
As a result of an undercover sting and a joint Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council Trading Standards inquiry that lasted three years, Bates was convicted of conspiracy to defraud.
Although initially pleading innocent despite more than 200 witness statements against him and two other colleagues Gary Callaghan and Peter Kemp, Bates eventually pleaded guilty.
Callaghan, formerly of Mottram Rise, Stalybridge, received a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years while Bates – formerly of Egerton, Bolton – received a nine-month sentence, also suspended for two years.
The two men – who both later moved to Ireland – were also banned from being the directors of UK companies for five years.
One of their Irish ventures, Irish Safety Books Ltd, was struck off in June last year after failing to file any accounts since its incorporation five years earlier.
Previously, the Revenue Commissioners had obtained two judgments against the ompany, for €80,000 and €51,000.
ISB had published a booklet about child abuse awareness while another of the duo’s companies, Guardian Publications Ltd, brought out a publication called Crime Prevention Yearbook.
In both cases, businesses were ‘cold-called’ to support the publications with adverts. Guardian Publications was also liquidated a number of years ago.