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U2's Adam Clayton 'rattled' by PA's (EU)15,000 spend

Irish Independent, June 24, 2012
By: Nicola Donnelly

 

U2 star Adam Clayton said he was "extremely rattled" and astounded when Carol Hawkins confessed that she had used nearly (EU)15,000 of his money to pay for flights for herself.

The bass guitarist denied he had given Ms Hawkins authority to spend his money for her own benefit and also denied that she had made large purchases for his Danesmoate mansion, such as art and furnishings.

"I would buy the things I wanted around me. Carol Hawkins bought cornflakes," said Mr Clayton.

Mr Clayton, dressed in a navy jacket and grey shirt, was sworn in last Thursday at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to give evidence on Day 12 of the trial against Ms Hawkins, who is accused of embezzling nearly (EU)3m of his money between 2004 and 2008.

Making himself comfortable in the witness box, Mr Clayton adjusted the microphone after Judge Patrick McCartan said: "You are used to the microphone, so, like all the others, I would ask you to speak into it."

Mr Clayton's reply of: "I'm more of a dum, dum, dum; I will practise my technique," caused a moment of laughter in the packed court room.

During his swearing in, Ms Hawkins cupped her chin in her left hand as she held her head down, continuing with her note-taking.

Ms Hawkins, 48, of Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to 181 counts of theft totalling (EU)2,869,274 from two of Mr Clayton's Bank of Ireland accounts between 2004 and 2008.

The rock star said he employed Ms Hawkins initially as his housekeeper as he was "fed up" coming home after touring to find his "electricity or phone cut off" as he lived alone. He met Carol and John when he was holidaying on a Caribbean island in 1992 when they ran a small hotel resort.

Ms Hawkins had expressed a desire to bring her two young children, Joe and Eleanor, back to Europe for school and he offered the couple a job running his home, as he wanted a constant presence while he was away touring and their experience would be beneficial to him.

The couple were on a joint salary of (EU)48,000 a year net and lived rent-free at the musician's Rathfarnham mansion.

"My way of operating was quite simple -- the house was run by her and the U2 business ran everything else," Mr Clayton said.

He said it was his then financial adviser, Gabby Smith, who suggested Ms Hawkins take over his bookkeeping in "a minor way," and he gave her signing authority for cheques from his Danesmoate and Fitzwilliam accounts, which, he said, were to pay for household bills and expenses.

He said he was under the assumption Mr Smith was overseeing, analysing and monitoring Ms Hawkins's entries and compiling monthly reports from QuickBooks, an accounting system Mr Smith had trained her in to record all transactions from Mr Clayton's two accounts, as he himself has no accounting experience.

He said while his Danesmoate mansion was undergoing multi-million-euro renovations which began in 2004, it was his Steering group of accountants, financial advisers and project managers who approved payments for work done, and "Carol signed the cheques, that was pretty much her involvement".

He told of the moment he became "rattled" when Ms Hawkins broke the news to him in 2008 that she had spent some of his money on airline fights without his knowledge or prior agreement. This news sparked the investigation into further alleged irregularities in his accounts.

"She mentioned she was suicidal and had taken an overdose. I recommended she see a therapist. I said we would verify the amounts she had been claiming. She just eluded to the overall distress of the break-up of her marriage."

He said he was "taken aback" by this disclosure as he said it was completely out of character.

"On many occasions, she accused others of being greedy so I was surprised by it. I was extremely rattled by it. I asked Gabby Smith to be diligent that this was the only money gone missing and he claimed he was diligent and it wasn't (EU)15,000, it was (EU)13,000," he said.

He said after weighing up the long years of loyalty she gave him and took her at her word that it was a "momentary aberration at her upset", and did not terminate her employment, but removed her as a cheque signatory.

Ms Hawkins had agreed to pay back (EU)500 a month for the (EU)13,000 she had taken. Mr Clayton said in a letter to Ms Hawkins he sought the assurance from her that she had made a full disclosure of the money she had taken. Ms Hawkins agreed and there was no reference made to the 181 cheques.

Mr Clayton glanced down at Ms Hawkins while reaching inside his jacket pocket for his glasses. Ms Hawkins did not make eye contact with her former employer.

When asked by prosecuting counsel whether he had stayed in some of the hotels listed on Ms Hawkins's credit card statement, such as the Trump International or the Ritz Carton in New York, he said he had not.

He was told a total of (EU)2,300 was spent on Ms Hawkins's credit card at a hotel in Cannes, to which he replied: "I had coffee once there on the terrace but I don't think I had that much coffee!"

He also said he never flew by Ryanair or Easyjet -- transactions for which appeared on Ms Hawkins's credit card statement. Under cross-examining by defence counsel Ken Fogarty, Mr Clayton denied the suggestion that she purchased items in her name with his money to protect his privacy and anonymity.

"The fact is she wrote cheques from my accounts and put them in her accounts," asserted Mr Clayton.

"There was no necessity for her to pay for things for me in her own name," he emphasised. He said he lives a perfectly normal, regular life when he is not working and he has "done shopping" for himself, when he was asked by Mr Fogarty if he accepted that he lived in a world that the "rest of us, lawyers, judge and jury members", could only observe.

He denied giving Ms Hawkins permission to spend his money educating her children.

He said it was not his concern how John was paying for the upkeep of the horse that he loaned him (EU)20,000 to purchase. He was "absolutely astonished" when it was discovered a total of (EU)434,000 was spent by Ms Hawkins on up to 22 horses she and her former husband owned.

He said his reaction was one of "amazement" when it was revealed Ms Hawkins owned a (EU)345,000 apartment in New York. "I had no idea Carol had that kind of financial resources."

He objected with defence counsel that Ms Hawkins became "indentured to him as a bond servant".

He said the "time-frame" of the alleged charges makes no difference. "I never sanctioned her to write cheques to herself. It's my money," he said.

The trial continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of seven men and five women.

(c) Irish Independent, 2012.

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