Northern Ireland

Fresh concerns over minibus firm NTF

Mark Townley
Image caption NICVA alleges Mark Townley did not provide refunds as promised

Fresh concerns have been raised about a company which is being wound up while owing community groups in Northern Ireland thousands of pounds.

The Glasgow Herald reported that two boxing clubs in Scotland bought rings from NTF UK which never materialised.

As many as 15 community groups in NI paid NTF, run by Mark Townley, £4,800 for use of a minibus.

Derek Lynch of Lochee Boys Club in Dundee told the BBC his club had paid out a cheque of £1,016 in July.

He said that staff at the club, which was founded in 1946, had been left "devastated" by the news that NTF was being wound up.

He added that the club had approached Mr Townley to purchase the ring after hearing positive reports about his business from other clubs in Scotland.

Mr Lynch said he was dubious when asked to pay the money by cash transfer but relented when told that he could pay by cheque.

The money came from a recent grant of £5,000 to the club by Dundee Council.

The Herald also reported that a similar fate had befallen Durie's Amateur Boxing Club in Rutherglen.

Image caption The website of NTF, featuring a profile of Mark Townley, has been taken down

Belfast-based NTF has notified stakeholders that it ceased trading on 5 August.

Two weeks ago, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) warned community groups to be cautious about the minibus scheme.

They alleged that NTF had contacted by a number of organisations and offered a new minibus if a deposit of £4,800 was paid within days.

Evicted

Representatives from NICVA said they visited Mr Townley and were not happy with the responses they received.

They said that Mr Townley agreed to refund the organisations who had paid deposits on vehicles but electronic cash transfers failed to take place and/or cheques bounced.

NICVA alleges that none of organisations they are aware of has received their promised refund.

NICVA has estimated that, based on debts it was aware of as reported by alleged creditors, that the company owes at least close to £80,000 to not-for-profit organisations and suppliers.

Prior to the letter notifying stakeholders of the winding-up of the company NTF was evicted from offices in Belfast's Gasworks due to non-payment of bills.

This eviction happened days after the NTF website had been taken down.

NTF is in the process of trying to appoint insolvency lawyers. It will also be a duty of those lawyers when appointed to report on any instances of suspected fraud by directors or employees of NTF.

A BBC Northern Ireland reporter called to what is believed to be Mr Townley's residence in Bangor on Tuesday morning but no-one was there.

A PSNI spokesperson said police were working to establish if any offence had taken place.

Any organisations who have experience with NTF and Mark Townley and would like advice or support can contact NICVA on 028 9087 7777 and speak to Neil Irwin or email neil.irwin@nicva.org.

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