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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Convicted lawyer tells court fraud followed 'threats'

Giovanni Di Stefano: alleged to have threatened solicitor
Giovanni Di Stefano: alleged to have threatened solicitor

Niamh Griffin

A FORMER solicitor allegedly under threat from infamous lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano, defrauded his clients and company of €310,000, a court has heard.

David O'Shea (44) was remanded in custody until next week, when he will be sentenced for 26 counts of fraudulently taking money.

O'Shea, of Parkmore Drive, Terenure, was formerly a partner in O'Donovan's Solicitors, of Capel Street, Dublin.

He pleaded guilty to fraudulently accessing client accounts for sums ranging from €400 to over €250,000 between 2002 and 2008.

O'Shea claimed that he had been threatened by Mr Di Stefano. He said he tried to borrow the money from a bank to pay the lawyer but when that failed he used €82,750, which was meant to cover the stamp duty on a client's property.

Mr Di Stefano is a well-known international lawyer, whose previous clients include convicted drug dealer John Gilligan and the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting, told Dublin Criminal Circuit Court that the fraud was uncovered when an accountant for the firm found a number of anomalies in its payment scheme in 2008.

These related particularly to the account of the late John Price. A total of 21 cheques made out to members of Mr Price's family were found to have been stolen by O'Shea.

O'Shea used one €79,000 cheque to cover a land transaction. Another payment of €5,000 was used to buy a car.

The court heard that a number of smaller payments had been made to members of the Price family with the intention of "keeping them sweet".

Mr Carroll said O'Shea's wife had not known the source of the money used to pay their joint Mastercard bill.

O'Shea also authorised a payment of €250,000 to a client, which was supposed to be used for a mortgage. However, the money was used for other purposes, with O'Shea's knowledge.

Mr Carroll asked Detective Sergeant Martin Griffin, of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, why fees and mortgages for some clients had been paid using money from other clients.

The detective replied: "We never got to the crux of why he was paying off the fees. There are ongoing investigations."

He said some of the missing money had been repaid by the firm or through insurance but that "the vast majority" could not be returned.

Daughters

He added that O'Donovans Solicitors ceased trading in 2009 because they were unable to get professional indemnity insurance. The court heard that 12 people lost their jobs.

Defence counsel Remy Farrell SC said O'Shea had been "frank and candid" with gardai.

Mr Farrell read from O'Shea's statement: "Giovanni Di Stefano threatened me and in one phone call said that I had two lovely daughters. I was aware that he had dealt with (two individuals) who are known to the gardai in Limerick."

O'Shea has no previous convictions. He was struck off the solicitor's roll in 2009 and is presently taking tax exams.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring remanded O'Shea into custody until next week, when he will be sentenced.

Irish Independent

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