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Sunday 26 February 2017

Catch him if you can: how lawyer gave elite clients the run-around

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

IS former barrister Patrick Russell now Ireland's answer to Frank Abagnale Jnr?

The struck-off lawyer seems to resemble the traits of the legendary American conman, whose ruses were captured in the movie 'Catch Me If You Can'.

Mr Russell, a businessman, property guru and self-styled tax consultant, boasts a string of letters after his name.

By his own account, he holds an MA, a BA, a diploma in advanced marketing and accounting, as well as being a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Institute of Management Consultants.

He also boasts a list of companies and individuals who were duped into handing over money to him for payment of their taxes -- only for Mr Russell to pocket the money.

The list of clients apparently stung by Mr Russell reads like a who's who of Ireland's elite. It includes music duo Foster and Allen, the golfer Damien McGrane and the singer Declan Nerney.

His stomping ground was the midlands.

An orphan, Mr Russell was raised in humble circumstances in north Dublin. The married father of six rose to prominence 12 years ago when he appeared as a witness for the State in the murder trial of 'Black Widow' Catherine Nevin.

Mr Russell resurfaced at Dublin Castle, when he was interrogated by the planning tribunal about his involvement with United Management Consultants, which sought to buy lands in north Dublin.

He also took a cameo role at Dublin Castle when, in his capacity as a barrister, he represented the controversial Fianna Fail TD Liam Lawlor at the Flood Tribunal.

His fraud only came to light after a number of people who claimed that Mr Russell misappropriated money due to Revenue found themselves being chased for unpaid tax.

Mr Russell's difficulties deepened in 2007 as the Celtic Tiger shuddered to a halt.

In July 2007, he was arrested over his failure to honour a contract for the sale of a €1.3m property in Dublin.

Some time later, musician Patrick Griffin told the High Court that Mr Russell had wrongly pocketed €580,000 of his money, which was to be used to pay his tax bill. Mr Russell claimed in court that the money given to him by Mr Griffin had been "lost".

Mick Foster and Tony Allen were "delighted" when they each received the official-looking letters confirming that their tax affairs were in order. But the letters were forgeries. The pair are now facing a €3m tax bill each.

As the courts heaped pressure on Mr Russell to explain where the money had gone, he pleaded the 'beal bocht'. In High Court proceedings by the Revenue against Patrick Griffin, Mr Russell revealed that he owed almost €4m to "investors".


He also blamed his financial woes on misfortunes that befell both him and and his old pal Tom McFeely, the developer of the condemned Priory Hall complex in Dublin.

"I have had an extensive personal relationship with Mr Thomas McFeely and his group of companies; we have had significant transfer of funds between us," Mr Russell stated in court papers.

He claimed that he had given at least €960,000 to Mr McFeely between January 2002 and December 2010.

Mr McFeely did not respond to queries about his friendship with Mr Russell.

Mr Russell is believed to be now living in the UK.

Irish Independent

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