Barrister accused of pocketing €580,000 from client
A BARRISTER was arrested and brought before the High Court yesterday after it was claimed he wrongly pocketed €580,000 -- part of which was due to pay a client's tax bill.
Patrick Russell, who is also a tax adviser and is currently living in Manchester, was told he was free to go after he agreed to provide a statement of his financial affairs to the court within two weeks.
It is the second time in four years that Mr Russell, a former accountant and business associate of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, has been arrested.
In July 2007 he was arrested and released from jail after a few hours over his failure to honour a contract for the sale of a Dublin property worth €1.3m.
Then, a High Court judge recommended the actions of Mr Russell be referred to the Garda Fraud Squad, the Revenue Commissioners and the Director of Corporate Enforcement.
Mr Russell has left the Law Library and is no longer in practice. However, he still holds the title of barrister-at-law and is entitled to practise as he has not been struck off by the King's Inns.
Yesterday's case arose after Patrick Griffin (66), a professional musician, of Knocksimon, Killucan, Co Westmeath, claimed he made a voluntary disclosure to the Revenue in early 2007 and employed Mr Russell to act as his tax consultant.
Mr Griffin, who is being pursued by the Revenue for €333,000, claims he had, on the advice of Mr Russell, transferred his life savings of about €580,000 in various payments in 2007 and 2008 to Mr Russell and/or to the company he worked for, Emerald Consulting International (ECI), Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
He claims he understood Mr Russell had paid €243,560 to the Revenue out of that money under an agreed tax settlement.
Mr Russell claims he later learned that sum was not paid and there were insufficient funds in accounts of Mr Russell or of ECI to clear cheques sent to Revenue.
In January 2010, the Revenue secured judgment for €333,555 against Mr Griffin. Mr Griffin has appealed that judgment order and is seeking to join Mr Russell to the proceedings.
On Monday, Mr Justice John Quirke made an order directing that Mr Russell be attached and brought before the court for the purpose of being asked about matters in connection with his financial affairs. Mr Russell was arrested and appeared before the judge yesterday afternoon.
Representing himself, Mr Russell, who has a previous address at Steelstown, Rathcoole, Co Dublin, said he was "a bit confused" as to why he had been arrested and said he would have come to court voluntarily "if I was asked".
He agreed he had received €580,000 from Mr Griffin. He said the money was "not just for Revenue" and Mr Griffin had asked him to negotiate a tax settlement and take insurance funds to see if he could get a better return. The money was "lost" and he did not have it, he said.
"I do owe him money, I accept that," he added.
Asked by the judge when he would pay the money, he said he could not pay it now but would pay it "when I have it".