Sunday 26 October 2014

Jailed: Thomas Byrne gets 12 years for largest fraud in Irish history

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 02/12/2013 | 15:09

Former solicitor Thomas Byrne

FORMER solicitor Thomas Byrne has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The separated father of three (47) was sentenced this afternoon after he was convicted of stealing almost €52 million from six banks and defrauding 13 clients out of their houses or money.

Last month a jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts on all 50 charges of theft, forgery and deception after deliberating for more than 17 hours over the course of five days.

The trial, which lasted six weeks, was the largest fraud trial in the history of the State.

Trial judge Pat McCartan described the scale of Mr Byrne's wrongdoing as "colossal" which involved "considerable skill and cunning" on Mr Byrne's part.

The judge sentenced Mr Byrne to 16 years with four years suspended.

This afternoon's sentence hearing heard that Mr Byrne had lost his profession and, in recent years, his family.

Senior Counsel Damian Colgan, for Mr Byrne, said that the former solicitor, at 47 years of age, did not foresee that he would find himself in this situation, facing such serious charges.

Mr Byrne had accepted the jury verdicts and rulings in the case, added Mr Colgan.

The charges alleged that Mr Byrne transferred clients’ homes into his name and then used them as collateral for property loans.

He was also accused of using invalid collateral to fraudulently borrow millions from six banks.

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.

Throughout his trial, Mr Byrne claimed 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 harm his family and said that he lived in fear of him.

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

The claims were subsequently described by Mr Kelly, who was not called as a witness by either the prosecution or the defence, as scurrilous and false.

During the trial, former clients of Mr Byrne spoke 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.

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

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

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