Former solicitor Thomas Byrne says clients would have lied to Law Society

Wednesday 06 November 2013 14.23
Thomas Byrne is in the witness box for the third day
Thomas Byrne is in the witness box for the third day

Former solicitor Thomas Byrne has told his trial his ex-clients would have lied to the Law Society to get their properties back.

Under sustained questioning from prosecuting counsel, Mr Byrne agreed that he was saying witnesses had lied about their agreements with him on property transfers.

Mr Byrne is in the witness box for a third day for questioning about allegedly fraudulent property transfers.

He denies 50 charges of theft, fraud and forgery involving more than €50m, six banks and 12 Dublin properties.

He said he understood why his friends and former clients denied it was done by agreement.

Mr Byrne said they needed the cooperation of the Law Society to get their properties returned.

He said he would have done the same if he was involved with a disgraced solicitor, given the attitude of the Law Society towards him and his practice.

Later, Mr Byrne disagreed that he was suggesting they were telling "whopping lies", but said it was necessary for them to "give a certain story which was contrary to my evidence".

Asked about a specific transaction where it is claimed he fraudulently transferred the house of a client into his own name, he accepted he had never seen Aideen Costigan sign the deed of transfer.

He denied it was an extraordinary transaction that someone would hand over the deeds to their house to someone they did not know on a foot of a promise they would be paid later.

Mr Byrne said it was an unusual transaction but not extraordinary.

Senior counsel for the prosecution Remy Farrell asked would Ms Costigan not have been as well off handing over the deeds in exchange for a bag of magic beans.

Mr Byrne replied that it was unfortunate that his practice closed before he had a chance to pay her.

He said he had bought the house from Ms Costigan with "a long closing date".

When asked why he did not tell clients that he was the potential buyer, he replied: "No particular reason."

Ms Costigan has already told the trial of her "horror" after she discovered her dead mother's house had been transferred into the former solicitor's name.

Ms Costigan, from Stillorgan in Dublin, told the court that documents in the Land Registry containing her name on the deed of transfer were not signed by her and she never received any money for the house.

In relation to another property on Walkinstown Road, Mr Byrne said his friend Brendan Dunne agreed to have his mother's house signed over to him temporarily to use as security for a bank loan.

He said he explained to Mr Dunne that he was under pressure and being threatened by developer John Kelly and he agreed to bring his mother to the office to sign over her house.

Mr Byrne said Peggy Dunne may not have known what she was doing.

He agreed he was good friends with Mr Dunne and they had sat together all through secondary school.

Mr Farrell asked why, if they had this agreement, did Mr Dunne "throw him under a bus" by giving evidence to the trial saying he knew nothing about the transfer.

Mr Byrne said he could not comment on his motivation, but he understood that Mr Dunne would have needed the cooperation of the Law Society to get his property back.

He always intended transferring the property back but could not do so after his practice was closed down.

Mr Byrne agreed there was not a "scrap of paper" detailing the agreement and added: "Brendan knew I was in a jam and he assisted me."

He said it was a wrong thing to do but he was desperate.

Under repeated questioning, Mr Byrne agreed that he was claiming Mr Dunne had lied to the Law Society and the jury.

He said he would do the same thing if he was involved with a disgraced solicitor, given the attitude of the Law Society to him and his practice.

Mr Farrell told Mr Byrne that questioning him about the motivation of witnesses who gave evidence against him was "like trying to pick up mercury with a fork".

He said he was being deliberating obtuse and evasive.

Earlier, he said most of the financial statements submitted to banks to support loan applications were fictional.

Mr Byrne said details on his financial statements were not checked by the banks because they were "perfectly happy to accept them". He was told by bank officials and Mr Kelly what to put on statements to make them look good.

He said bank staff were not concerned with detail about individual properties because he was "apparently making six and half million from Prada at the time".

Mr Byrne said the statements were prepared in his office with his business partner Mr Kelly. He also admitted he lied to his accountant.