IRELAND - A legal action brought by the Pensions Ombudsman against the owner of O'Mahony Civil Engineering Limited for failing to provide payroll documentation will now be heard in November, after the employer was arrested and released on surety.

Paul Kenny, the Pensions Ombudsman is investigating O'Mahony Civil Engineering over claims that pension deductions were made from employees' wages but were not paid into the industry-wide mandatory Construction Workers' Pension Scheme (CWPS).

After "numerous attempts" to obtain the payroll information required for the investigation from the company, the Ombudsman initiated summary proceedings against John O'Mahony in April.

However, when O'Mahony failed to appear before Waterford District Court to answer the charges brought by the Ombudsman in June, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

Following his capture, he has now been "remanded on his own surety of €300", ahead of the new court date of 20 November 2008.

The arrest follows a crackdown by both the Pensions Board and the Pensions Ombudsman against employers who failed to meet pension requirements either towards the Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) or occupational schemes.

The Pensions Board successfully prosecuted an employer in October for failing to meet the PRSA requirements, resulting in a €5,000 fine, while the Pensions Ombudsman has initiated both civil and criminal court proceedings against employers that have failed to cooperate with investigations. (See earlier IPE articles: Firm fined €5,000 after failing PRSA rules; Court issues €5,000 fine for obstructing pension ombudsman and Ombudsman's legal warning over non-compliance)

Following the recent developments in that case, Kenny said he cannot understand why an employer "who has not acted responsibly in this area does not simply seek to put the matter right when my Office makes contact". 

He said: "The reality is that 'the game is up' and if there has been maladministration in relation to pension arrangements there is the opportunity, there and then, to get the matter sorted out."

However, Kenny claimed: "There seems to be a hard core of employers who seek to thumb their noses at both official investigations and the judicial system. Pursuing people through the Courts is not a matter I take lightly, but some people don't yet seem to have got the message - workers' rights must be protected, even if it takes criminal proceedings to do that."

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