Former solicitor Thomas Byrne found guilty of 50 charges in fraud trial

Monday 18 November 2013 23.43
Thomas Byrne denied the charges against him
Thomas Byrne denied the charges against him

Former solicitor Thomas Byrne has been found guilty on all charges in the country’s largest ever fraud trial.

After a six-week trial, a jury at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court returned unanimous guilty verdicts on 50 charges, having deliberated for more than 17 hours since last Monday.

Judge Pat McCartan told the jury it was "unique" in how it handled the trial, having fulfilled its duty for 29 days.

He praised the jurors for their work. He noted that the courts are going into a period when they will have to deal with complex and lengthy cases.

He said the jurors gave the court great confidence that the jurors of Dublin could deal with these types of cases.

Byrne sat with his head bowed as the verdicts were read out.

He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on 2 December.

The 47-year-old from Mountjoy Square in Dublin had denied 50 charges of theft, fraud and forgery, involving almost €52m, six banks and 12 Dublin properties.

Former clients of Byrne had told the trial of their horror when they discovered the title deeds to their family homes had been signed over to him and used as security for multi-million euro bank loans.

Some said they were lifelong friends and acquaintances and never thought he would do such a thing.

Many only became aware of the transactions after Byrne's practice was closed down by the Law Society in 2007. He was reported by a colleague.

Byrne had claimed during the trial that his clients had consented to the sale or use of their properties as collateral for the loans.

He said he always intended to pay for the properties or transfer them back but some clients were "caught in the crossfire" when his practice was closed.

Because of this he claimed they had lied to the Law Society about their agreements in order to get their properties returned.

His lawyers told the jury there was no paper trail to prove their agreements because that is how the clients wanted it.

They wanted to keep the deals secret from their families, it was claimed.

Prosecuting lawyers said Byrne was like a gambler who wouldn't throw his hand in even at the end. 

He piled the chips higher and as he got deeper and deeper into debt, his answer was to borrow more. 

Throughout his trial Byrne said he was pressurised into taking out the loans by developer John Kelly.

He said most of the money went to Mr Kelly to fund his extravagant lifestyle.

He claimed Mr Kelly had threatened to kill him and threatened to kill his daughter and he lived in fear of him to this day.

However, the jury was told the law did not allow him to use the defence of duress in this case.

He also said some bank staff either knew or did not care that the properties were double mortgaged.

However, the jury was told this was irrelevant to whether or not he was guilty of theft as the loans were obtained by deception.

Following the verdict the Law Society reiterated that Byrne had been formally struck off the roll of solicitors in June, 2008.

In a statement the society welcomed the verdicts but said it would be "inappropriate" to make any further comment until the completion of the sentencing process.