Google has indicated it is prepared to provide some of the information sought by a court-appointed inspector investigating a Christmas tree planting firm.
The High Court heard on Thursday that the technology giant intends to consent next week to disclose some data it has relating to WFS Forestry Ireland Limited, which is being investigated by Declan de Lacy, of PKF O’Connor, Leddy & Holmes.
However, Google is resisting providing other categories of substantial information sought by Mr de Lacy, including information held in WFS Forestry’s online “cloud” system and emails due to data protection concerns.
There may be a full hearing at a later date examining whether the relevant sections of the Companies Act of 2014 requires Google to provide the information sought and/or whether that legislation is compatible with European data protection laws.
Mr de Lacy was appointed as inspector in July by Mr Justice Michael Quinn who said there was “prima facie evidence of wrongdoing, unlawfulness or other irregularity”.
Mr de Lacy wants the information to aid his efforts investigating, among other things, whether the affairs of the company, which denies any wrongdoing, have been conducted with the intent to defraud creditors or with a fraudulent or unlawful purpose.
Google Ireland Limited and Google Cloud EMEA Limited previously asked the court for some time so its representatives could meet Mr de Lacy last month to narrow their differences on the scope of what the technology company considered was a “broad” information request.
Its counsel, Margaret Gray, cited data protection concerns as a potential barrier to releasing certain information, particularly when there may be other personal data in the mix.
Barrister Brian Conroy, for Mr de Lacy, told the court previously that attempts to obtain the information directly from WFS Forestry were unsuccessful.
WFS Forestry, which has registered offices in the Fitzwilliam Business Centre, 26/27 Pembroke Street, Dublin, and its director Craig Hands have not engaged in court proceedings since Mr de Lacy’s appointment last July.
They deny the allegations raised by investor John Kearney, of Tralee, Co Kerry, and 17 other alleged investors who supported his application for the inspector’s appointment. They claim their investments, structured variously as loans and other advances, were not repaid when due.
Mr de Lacy said in an affidavit that 66 individuals allegedly invested a total of €4.3 million in purported Christmas tree plantations and other ventures through WFS Forestry and its associated firms.
The case returns before Mr Justice Michael Quinn next week.