I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch for taking this issue. It is a matter that has been widely reported, including in the Irish Examiner yesterday and today and in many other publications in recent months, including the Daily Mail and the Sunday Independent. Families throughout this country are struggling with the heavy burden of mortgage debt and, as we know, desperate times provoke desperate measures. Under the weight of severe financial pressure, many people are facing the grim prospect of having their family home repossessed. We have debated these issues on several occasions in the Chamber. The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act, for instance, strengthened the banks in terms of their ability to instigate repossessions. We have seen reportage in recent days of the first cases coming through under the provisions of the Personal Insolvency Act. It remains a problem, however, that the banks are at the centre of that process and effectively have a veto on debt resolution proposals.
As a consequence of the desperate circumstances in which people find themselves, a highly dubious property trust has emerged claiming to be able to save people's homes on the basis of a lacuna in the law of which, apparently, only the people operating the trust are aware. They have consistently refused to enlighten anybody as to how it works. In the year to date, it has been reported, up to 2,000 people, many of them high-profile business people, came into contact with the trust and, in a last-ditch attempt to remain in control of their debt-laden properties, have engaged with it. They put their faith in this mysterious property trust, known as the Rodolphus Allen Trust, which claimed it had found a way to split mortgages from properties. In exchange for this promise of protecting people's properties, the trust is charging an administration fee in the order of €200 to €250 and a per folio charge of up to €100. There have been reports of up to 200 people turning up at signing-on sessions.
These were aided and facilitated by a notary public, who has since seen the light of day and desisted from being involved. As the Minister of State is aware, the trust has also made claims of up to hundreds of millions of euro from receivers and banks, which are working through some of these distressed properties. The trust has also written to people claiming the rent rolls on commercial properties.
In August a mob - that is the best way of describing it - was led by the trust to a stud farm in County Kildare and took over the property. The people involved then withdrew from the property and it was eventually taken into possession by the receivers. All of this has been high profile and widely reported. The individuals at the centre of the trust are highly mobile, moving from one end of the country to the other and moving out of the jurisdiction. While it is not our business, it is a fact that similar organisations have been operating outside the jurisdiction, in the North in particular.
It was reported yesterday that the head of the trust was arrested and this brings the matter into sharp focus. There are several questions which I am keen to put to the Minister of State and I will follow them with supplementary questions. What action has the Government taken to inform vulnerable debtors of the activities of this trust and similar trusts? Has the Government reviewed the Consumer Protection Act 2007? Is the Act capable of dealing with this type of activity? Has the Department of Justice and Equality or any other Department been in touch with the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners, two relevant agencies in this matter, given the high profile nature and the sums of money involved. In the case of at least one of these trusts it is estimated that in excess of €600,000 has been taken from people in cash payments; there are no cheques and there is no traceability, it is all cash and there is no accountability.