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Wednesday 27 August 2014

O’Brien faces up to 10 years in jail for ‘pyramid’ scheme fraud

Dearbhail McDonald

Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30

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Businessman Breifne O'Brien at court yesterday
Businessman Breifne O'Brien at court yesterday

DISGRACED socialite Breifne O'Brien is facing up to 10 years in jail after he pleaded guilty to a €10m-plus "pyramid" style investment fraud.

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The 52-year-old was due to stand trial before a jury on 45 counts of theft and deception.

However, despite at one stage mounting a Supreme Court action to prevent his trial going ahead, he pleaded guilty yesterday to a sample 14 counts before Circuit Court judge Patricia Ryan appointed a jury for the trial.

Several of his victims, including a long-standing friend, attended the Criminal Courts of Justice to witness O'Brien plead guilty.

The investment adviser, whose marriage to party planner Fiona Nagle ended after his scheme came to light six years ago, stood with his head bowed as he pleaded guilty to each of the 14 counts.

He faces up to 10 years in jail for the sample theft counts and five for the deception counts.

The guilty pleas were entered on a full facts basis, meaning that Mr O’Brien will not contest any of the facts contained in the book of evidence at his sentence hearing.

Prosecutor Luan O Braonain SC said the sentence hearing could take up to a day as it was “a complex matter”.

The DPP did not object to continuing bail.

Patrick McGrath SC, representing Mr O'Brien, said that his client was a man of no previous convictions.

Although these were very serious matters, Mr McGrath said this was “unusually” a case where court would benefit from a probation report. But Judge Ryan declined to order a report until the sentence hearing is finalised in late July or October.

The case will come back for mention before the court next week.

The sample counts which Mr O'Brien pleaded guilty to, including “bogus” property deals, relate to each of the five

injured parties who were present in court for the hearing. They included stealing money and dishonestly inducing people to invest in bogus shipping and insurance schemes, and also bogus property schemes in Paris, Manchester and Hamburg.

The allegations of deception involve five people namely Martin O'Brien, Pat Doyle, Evan Newall, Louis Dowley and Daniel Maher.

It was alleged that about €4m was stolen from Mr Dowley, a Tipperary dairy farmer.

Another amount was a sum of €2.1m which O'Brien admitted stealing from Evan Newall between June 8 and 15, 2007 at National Irish Bank, Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Other offences took place at NIB Donnybrook and Ulster Bank, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Mr O’Brien was originally charged with 19 counts of theft involving sums totalling around €11m from five individuals between 2006 and 2008.

Another 19 charges involve alleged deception of the same people. A further seven charges of deception involving ?1.9m relate to one of those five people between 2003 and 2008.

Mr O’Brien (51), from Kilmore, The Gallan, Granitefield, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, fought a lengthy battle to prevent his trial proceeding.

Publicity

But last month the Supreme Court ruled that the trial against Mr O'Brien could proceed at any time after June 2014, despite his claims that he could not get a fair trial because of adverse publicity.

The court accepted there had been unsatisfactory publicity in relation to the matter and it also said certain remarks about the case by High Court judge, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, were “not wise comments”.

However, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said the court was satisfied, on various grounds, Mr O’Brien had not shown there was, at this point in time, a real risk of an unfair trial.

She said years had passed since the bulk of the publicity and the “fade factor” applied.

Irish Independent

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