Smirnoff accuses executive of siphoning off a million dollars

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The Independent Online
SMIRNOFF, Britain's largest vodka company, is suing one of its most senior executives for allegedly misappropriating up to dollars 1.3m (pounds 870,000). It is the largest suspected fraud in the drinks trade in recent years.

The Independent has learnt that Paul Tynan, former worldwide marketing director of Pierre Smirnoff, is accused by his former employers of setting up a simple, well-disguised mechanism for siphoning company cash into personal accounts, while launching the present Smirnoff advertising campaign. He is also accused of taking bribes.

Smirnoff, which did not apparently detect anything amiss until this year, has taken out a civil action against Mr Tynan. It will not confirm whether the matter has been drawn to the attention of the police. A spokesman said it was a 'private matter'. Mr Tynan, who lives in Dublin, was not available for comment. A woman living at his home address said that he was on business in 'Czechoslovakia'. Mr Tynan has acknowledged service of the writ.

The writ alleges that Mr Tynan, senior vice-president of the company with responsibility for worldwide marketing between 1991 and 1994, paid dollars 1.3m to MEG Display Corporation, a New York company which produces T-shirts and other promotional material.

Smirnoff alleges that invoices were paid for phantom products and that Mr Tynan took bribes to 'betray' International Distillers & Vintners, the UK parent of the Smirnoff company, and that he misappropriated at least part of the money paid over. He was, according to Smirnoff, 'aware that MEG did not have the capability to manufacture the . . . merchandise itself'.

It is claimed that Mr Tynan set up four fictitious companies. The writ claims that the money found its way into accounts he held under false names in banks in Ireland. The Allied Irish Banks confirmed assets in named accounts had been frozen pending the High Court hearing.

Details, page 2