Former solicitor Michael Lynn has told his trial for theft that he had permission from bankers to use money they gave him for mortgages in Ireland to fund property development abroad.
Mr Lynn, who is 53 and has an address at Redcross in Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of stealing a total of almost €30m from financial institutions in 2006 and 2007.
It is the prosecution case that he dishonestly and repeatedly applied for multiple mortgages on the same properties from financial institutions without the knowledge of the institutions.
Mr Lynn said the banks he dealt with were aware of his other borrowings and aware of his investments abroad. He said the minute a loan goes through, the loan is registered within 30-60 days and is visible to the Irish Credit Bureau.
He said credit checks were more powerful than any statement of affairs. He said he was never asked to provide an explanation for undisclosed lending revealed in an ICB check. "I simply didn't need to," he said, "they were aware of the other borrowings and aware of the investments abroad".
Mr Lynn said there was no effort whatsoever by him to conceal his loans. The banks, he said, could see every loan he had. He said it bounced out at them. If he had been trying to pull the wool over their eyes or take advantage of them, their own internal checks were showing his loans, he said.
Mr Lynn told defence counsel, Paul Comiskey O'Keeffe that undisclosed lending was never raised with him. No concern was raised with him, he said, he was not brought in for a meeting to see if he was "up to something". He said what he was up to was doing business, and the banks were enabling him and assisting him in doing that business.
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Mr Lynn said the loans were registered and they were there in front of the banks. It wasn't some sort of "witches' brew" he was putting together, he said.
He denied he had "duped" the banks. He couldn't have interfered with the ICB checks, he said.
Mr Lynn told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that loans granted by financial institutions to buy properties in Ireland would be paid into the client account of his solicitor’s practice.
He said the money would then be sent to his property company Kendar Holdings when cashflow requirements were identified.
"We had permission from bankers to use these monies for developments abroad," he said.
Asked by Judge Martin Nolan to clarify his evidence, Mr Lynn said the banks permitted him to utilise these monies for property development abroad.
He said he would have told them himself what he was using the money for.
He added that this permission was ongoing for two years leading up to the period of time the charges he faces relate to.
Mr Lynn said he was not allowed to use the money for whatever he wanted.
However, he said the banks would have understood he would be using the monies to purchase a specific asset for a period of time and pay back the money within a specific time.
He said these arrangements had begun as far back as 2003 with Bank of Ireland.
Mr Lynn said there were emails sent by him to specific bankers explaining precisely the purposes the money would be used for and outlining it would be repaid within a specific time.
He said the emails had existed on the server of Kendar Holdings until October 2007 but he said he did not have them now.
Mr Lynn told the court he requested all emails from the liquidator and had requested information from all his banks but had received a response only from Irish Permanent which sent him 80 pages of heavily redacted material.
He also claimed he had sought disclosure of such emails from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Earlier, Mr Lynn told the court that as he started to acquire more property he spoke to the banks and discussed the idea of being able to purchase properties on an "undertaking only" basis – meaning a solicitor's promise or undertaking to register the charge against the property.
He said the process of actually registering a property could take up to a year and he made this arrangement with banks in relation to properties he intended to sell quickly.
He said this allowed him to move quicker as a borrower and a seller of property.
Mr Lynn said a solicitor’s undertaking was a "serious document" which meant a solicitor was obliged as a professional to register the charge over the property and protect the interests of the bank.
He said there was no reflection in any of the loan documentation of this "undertaking only" arrangement.
He said these were verbal arrangements with specific bankers or senior people on credit committees.
He said at this time he was being introduced to senior people such as Michael Fingleton, the CEO of Irish Nationwide Building Society at the time.
If a solicitor did not subsequently register a charge he said they would start to receive letters from the bank.
He said this could result in a complaint to the Law Society and a solicitor would end up being struck off if they continued to breach undertakings.
Mr Lynn said the market was moving quickly and the banks became more concerned with "bundling" loans together and selling them as a financial instrument, rather than traditional lending.
He said this ultimately led to a disaster.
He said there were no forms reflecting the arrangements he had with Irish Nationwide and there was no form available for multiple mortgages.
He said at the time he was spending most of his time with his property company Kendar and always communicated with banks via his Kendar email address.
He described having three personal assistants.
In 2006 and 2007 he said he had also appointed people who had expertise in banking to deal with banks on his behalf.
Mr Lynn said every profession had its own language and bankers dealt in acronyms and "hardly spoke English" he said, and he needed bankers to "speak banking".
He said things were moving very fast and he employed people who knew what they were doing.