An Irish man who is wanted in France for allegedly being part of a gang that "swindled" people by laying poor quality driveways could face 10 years’ imprisonment, the High Court was told today.
Patrick Flynn (33) and two other men are alleged to have sold new driveways “over the doorstep” to homeowners in western France. But his customers later alleged they had been duped into agreeing to the new drives.
They also claimed the quality of the work carried out was shoddy and that they could not find the men afterwards to seek refunds or repairs.
It was also alleged the men started the work almost immediately after their customers agreed to their quote, and did not allow for a ‘cooling-off’ period required under French law.
Prosecutors in the French city of Le Havre have now issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for Mr Flynn to face charges of money laundering, fraud and being a member of a criminal organisation.
If extradited and found guilty he could face 10 years’ imprisonment, the High Court was told on Thursday.
Mr Flynn, whose birthplace is Cork and who must reside at an address in Limerick as part of his EAW bail conditions, was in court this morning as the warrant was opened and the details read out.
Karen Nolan BL, for the Minster of Justice, told Ms Justice Caroline Biggs that the warrant alleges that the work carried out by Mr Flynn and two other men was of poor quality.
Ms Nolan also told the court that in the extradition document the word “swindling” had been highlighted underneath a list of offences Mr Flynn has been accused of by the French authorities.
Prosecutors allege the group had misinformed customers they were going to use tarmacadam for the new driveways when in actual fact the material used was a mixture of “gravel and concrete”.
According to the French authorities, the men had failed to provide a 14-day cooling period – as required by French law – and they could not be traced by unhappy customers after payments were made, Ms Nolan added.
It has also been claimed that the companies the men used to lodge customer payments were fictitious, counsel continued, and the invoices they provided did not comply with French regulations.
The maximum penalty for the offences, which were alleged to have taken place between January 2011 and January 2012, was 10 years’ imprisonment, Ms Nolan added.
Under French law, “a trader shall not engage in misleading commercial practices”, Ms Nolan explained.
A commercial practice was “misleading if it includes false information” which would lead to “a consumer making a transaction they would not otherwise make”, she added.
Ms Nolan added that Mr Flynn’s identity had been confirmed before the court by a member of An Garda Síochána at a previous hearing, and that “no objection has been raised in relation to identification”.
Adjourning the case to June 30th, Ms Justice Biggs told Mr Flynn – who stood at the back of the court during the hearing – that she was duty bound “as a judge to satisfy myself to each and every element” of the legislation “before authorising your surrender”.
“We should pause and not rush things,” the judge added.