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Michael Lynn

Disgraced solicitor Michael Lynn found guilty of stealing €17.9m from six financial institutions

A sentence date has been set for 15 January next.

THE JURY IN the multi-million euro trial of former solicitor Michael Lynn has returned guilty verdicts on 10 of the 21 charges against him. 

The jury convicted Lynn of 10 counts of stealing around €17.9 million from six financial institutions 16 years ago. They were unable to agree on the remaining 11 counts on the indictment. 

Lynn (55) leaned forward when the jury returned the verdicts in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today but made no visible reaction.

The jury had been deliberating for six and half hours across two days following an eight-week trial. 

Judge Martin Nolan remanded him in custody after the verdicts were handed down. He set a sentence date of 15 January next. 

Lynn, of Millbrook Court, Redcross, Co Wicklow had pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of theft in Dublin between 23 October 2006 and 20 April 2007, when he was working as a solicitor and property developer. 

It was the second trial in the case, after the jury in the first trial last year was unable to agree on the verdicts. 

It was the prosecution case that Lynn obtained multiple mortgages on the same properties in a situation where banks were unaware that other institutions were also providing finance. These properties included ‘Glenlion’, Lynn’s €5.5 million home in Howth, and multiple investment properties. 

The financial institutions involved were Bank of Ireland, National Irish Bank, Irish Life and Permanent, Ulster Bank, ACC Bank, Bank of Scotland Ireland Ltd and Irish Nationwide Building Society. 

The guilty verdicts returned by the jury related to Irish Nationwide, National Irish Bank, Irish life and Permanent, Ulster Bank, ACC Bank and Bank of Scotland.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the single count relating to Bank of Ireland alleging Lynn stole €2.7 million from that bank.

It was also unable to reach verdicts on 10 counts relation to Irish Nationwide, including the allegation that Lynn stole €4.1 million from this financial institution in April 2007. The charge the jury convicted Lynn on in relation to Irish Nationwide related to a single count of stealing €508,000 in January 2007.

‘Off the books’

Lynn took the stand and told his trial that the banks were aware he had multiple loans on the same properties and that this was custom and practice among bankers in Celtic Tiger Ireland.

He told the court he had “off the books” agreements with the banks to use the loan money for his property developments abroad.

He said that in relation to Irish Nationwide, he signed a “memo of understanding” with bank chief Michael Fingleton in a Dublin hotel in 2006.

He said the agreement involved Irish Nationwide providing funding for Lynn’s apartment development in Portugal, with Mr Fingleton set to benefit personally from this arrangement.

In relation to Bank of Ireland, the defence referred to internal emails from this bank querying Lynn’s undertaking-only mortgages with the bank back in 2004 and suggesting Lynn be referred to the Law Society.

It was alleged that this was evidence of the business model that the banks were operating.

The court heard from dozens of witnesses – many of them bank officials who testified that they would never have lent the money to Lynn if they had been aware he had already taken out mortgages on the same property and were not aware of any “off the book arrangements” in relation to his lending.

Lynn’s former legal executive, Liz Doyle, told the trial that she signed his signature and forged the signature of a solicitor in the firm, Fiona McAleenan, on loan documents under Lynn’s instructions. She said she did not discuss this with McAleenan.

Fiona McAleenan took the stand and repeatedly denied being involved in conveyancing in the practice.

She said she was not aware that Doyle was forging her signature and she was not aware of Lynn’s loans.

Game of Thrones

The allegations first came to light in September 2007, when McAleenan alerted the Law Society to irregularities in the practice.

Lynn’s assets were frozen and he went to London, then Portugal and eventually Brazil, where he was arrested in 2013.

He was struck off the roll of solicitors in 2008 following an investigation by the Law Society.

Lynn gave evidence of his four-and-a-half years in a Brazilian prison prior to his extradition in 2018, describing how the prison was essentially run by inmates and like something out of ‘Game of Thrones’.

In his closing speech to the jury last week, prosecuting senior counsel Karl Finnegan, said Lynn was a gambler and a risk-taker who tried to pull the wool over the banks’ eyes.

“He should not be allowed to pull the wool over your eyes,” Finnegan said.

“I think Mr Lynn is a risk-taker. It’s clear he lived for the next big deal…He is still gambling but the gamble has changed. The gamble is you might accept his version of events.”

He said there may be a suggestion that the banks were “shoddy, careless, reckless”. “It doesn’t matter,” he said noting that if someone leaves their front door open and their jewellery is stolen – “They were careless, but it is still theft”.

Outlining the legal definition of theft, Finnegan said it doesn’t have to be permanent and can be temporary.

“I have no doubt Mr Lynn wasn’t planning on taking €27 million and sailing into the sunset with it and disappearing. He probably was going to pay it back, but he got caught out.”

‘No theft’

In his closing speech to the jury, Paul Comiskey O’Keeffe BL, defending, said the jury’s decision would affect the balance of Lynn’s life. “That underlines the seriousness and solemnity of the decision you have to make,” he said.

He said Lynn’s defence was that in respect of one financial institution – Irish Nationwide – there was a profit share agreement with Fingleton, while the other banks were aware of the purpose of Lynn’s borrowings.

“If you accept the banks were aware, then there’s no theft,” Comiskey O’Keeffe said. “Theft requires deception.”

The court heard evidence that Lynn engaged in these lending arrangements with the banks outside of the period the jury has to consider.

“What’s bizarre about these seven distinct banks is that not one of them ever sent a letter of demand seeking compliance with an undertaking,” he said.

“(Mr Lynn) has never registered a mortgage in favour of any bank. This was the business model, the custom and practice that developed. You can’t account for this unique similarity between these seven financial institutions without seeing Mr Lynn as a common thread between them all.”

In his charge to the jury, Judge Martin Nolan said that many people “weren’t very fond” of the banks during the time period involved, noting their “reckless behaviour” brought the country into a bad state. But he said the jury must put aside any prejudice or sympathy in its deliberations.