Eden College owner denies he 'trousered' money

Friday 23 May 2014 20.11
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Teachers are owed wages, while rent and deposits are also outstanding
Teachers are owed wages, while rent and deposits are also outstanding
Fakir Hussain declined to answer any questions on his way into the meeting
Fakir Hussain declined to answer any questions on his way into the meeting

The owner of a college that catered for foreign students has rejected suggestions that he "trousered" money received in fees from students.

A creditors' meeting for Eden College heard of a complex web of companies, mostly owned by Fakir Hussain, and of large sums of money that passed between them.

More than €800,000 was transferred from the company that owned Eden College to a parent company called Mind Leaders in 2012.

Mr Hussain said this was in order to buy a company in the UK.

Two sums totalling €100,000 went to a company owned by Mr Hussain's father.

Mr Hussain said that was for work that had been tendered and that his father's company had offered the best price.

The meeting also heard of a debt of just over €300,000 owed by Eden to a company called Chill Out Ventures.

Chill Out Ventures is a property management company owned by Fakir Hussain and used to accommodate students.

Lawyers asked what third-party valuations were in place to ensure that such transactions, between companies so closely related, were at arm’s length.

They asked did one have to accept on faith that he had not "trousered the cash".

To this Mr Hussain replied that he had not "trousered the cash".

Mr Hussain also rejected accusations that he had "drained Eden College dry".

He said the money had gone on teaching students, running the business, and on trading losses.

A Statement of Affairs presented at the meeting gave a breakdown of an estimated €1.4m in debts.

But lawyers representing students, the Revenue Commissioners, and Dublin City Council disagreed with the figures presented.

Students said they were owed more than €390,000 and not the €56,000 in the Statement of Affairs.

Dublin City Council representatives said the council was owed €220,000, almost double what Mr Hussain had estimated.

The Revenue Commissioners said they too were owed more than the €60,000 calculated by Mr Hussain.

Student Muhammad Ijaz told the meeting he had completed two years of a business degree at Eden College.

Just weeks before it closed he had paid fees for his third and final year.

Now, he said, he has nothing, including no qualification. "What is the price of my time?" he asked.

He said students were being treated "like dogs in the street".

Mr Hussain was asked if he was the owner of another college, IBS, that was housed in the same building on Burgh Quay and also closed unexpectedly in recent weeks.

The director of IBS, Liz Clery, has claimed that Mr Hussain was the real owner.

On several occasions Mr Hussain declined to answer the question. His representative said it was not relevant to the creditors' meeting.

Mr Hussain explained that when IBS had moved into the building on Burgh Quay it did not have credit card facilities.

He said Eden had made its credit card facilities available to IBS and that was why some students had receipts that appeared to come from Eden College.

The meeting also heard of debts of €20,000 to Mark O'Keeffe, an accountant from Cork.

Mark O'Keeffe's father, former Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe, was president of Eden College until shortly before its closure.

Meanwhile, the task force aimed at assisting students affected by closure of the colleges has met for the first time.

In a statement this afternoon, the Department of Education and Skills said the task force's first priority is to establish the number of genuine students affected by the closure of five private colleges in recent weeks, how many students have been accommodated in other colleges in the sector and what more can be done to assist the international students. 

The task force will meet again next Tuesday where it is expected that options for students who have not yet been accommodated through other placements will be discussed.

The task force is made up of stakeholders such as Marketing English in Ireland, the Irish Council for International Students, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, Higher Education Colleges Association, Quality and Qualifications Ireland and others.

Keywords: eden college