SOCIALITE and businessman Breifne O'Brien is to stand trial accused of deception and theft of about €11m in an alleged investment fraud.
The 51-year-old had been arrested in Dublin this morning by fraud squad detectives. The Cork-born socialite and financial advisor was then brought before Dublin District Court charged with 38 offences under the Theft and Fraud Act.
Mr O'Brien, who has an address at Kilmore, Monkstown Grove, in south Co Dublin, faces 19 charges of theft of sums totalling approximately €11m from five individuals and 19 charges for deception of the same people, which allegedly occurred between 2006 and 2008.
The businessman, who has handed over his passport to gardai, was told he cannot apply for a new one, and after his mother was let stand bail, he was ordered to appear again on November 1 next when he is to be served with a book of evidence.
Detective Sergeant Martin Griffin of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation told Judge Cormac Dunne that the arrest was made at 9am today at the Bridewell Garda station in Dublin.
“In answer to all the charge sheets, in reply after caution, he said 'not guilty',” Det-Sgt Griffin said.
The fraud squad officer said 19 charges were in relation to theft and there were 19 “mirror” charges for deception. He told court that the theft and deception allegations involved five people, namely Martin O'Brien, Pat Doyle, Evan Newall, Louis Dowley and Daniel Maher.
It is alleged that about €4m alone was stolen from Mr Dowley, who is a Tipperary dairy farmer.
The total sum of money involved in relation to the theft charges is approximately €11m, Det-Sgt Griffin said.
There was no objection to bail and Det-Sgt Griffin said that Mr O'Brien has already surrendered his passport and gardai were satisfied that he resides in the State.
The officer then read out the individual charge sheet numbers while Mr O'Brien sat on the defendant's bench with his hands clasped and his legs crossed. He then began to peruse his copies of the charges and spoke quietly with his solicitor Maureen Moynihan.
However, Mr O'Brien, who was wearing a navy blazer, grey jumper and dark grey trousers, did not address the court during the hearing.
Judge Dunne was told that the DPP has directed “trial on indictment”, which means the case will go before a judge and jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
A theft conviction on indictment can result in a fine and a jail sentence of up to 10 years while a person found guilty of deception can receive a fine as well a term not exceeding five years in imprisonment.
Judge Dunne was told that the book of evidence will be ready to be served on Mr O'Brien in six weeks and the court heard that there was no objection to his mother, Mary, standing bail for him.
Defence solicitor Maureen Moynihan said Mrs O'Brien had a bank account with €2,000 in it, and Det-Sgt Griffin agreed that she had the capacity and financial resources to stand bail.
However, the judge said he was concerned whether she was doing so voluntarily. “A mother standing as surety can sometimes be an involuntary and a emotive decision as opposed to a rational, cold, commercial decision,” he said. He also asked whether the implications of acting as an independent surety, which was set at €10,000, were understood by her.
Mrs O'Brien agreed that she was acting voluntarily and said “No, I am not” when asked by the judge if she was “under any duress, emotive or otherwise”.
The judge said he had wanted to sure that she was not under “emotive coercion” adding “a mother's decision-making skills in a situation like this are naturally frail” before he agreed to let her stand the bail.
Judge Dunne set the bail in Mr O'Brien's own bond of €1,000 with the independent surety of €10,000. The judge said that the Department of Foreign Affairs is to be notified that Mr O'Brien has surrendered his passport and that he must not apply for a duplicate one.
Mr O'Brien was then released; he will be served with a book of evidence and returned for trial at his next court appearance.