Saturday 20 January 2018

Head bowed as if in prayer, a 'gambler' resigned to his fate

Thomas Byrne outside court this week
Thomas Byrne outside court this week

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

THOMAS Byrne wept profusely as he claimed he had been intimidated by his former business partner, John Kelly, into fraudulently drawing down almost €52m in bank loans.

He was upset, if adamant, when he insisted that his friends whose properties he transferred into his own name -- and then used them as collateral for loans -- had lied to the Law Society in order to secure compensation.

After all the high drama over the course of its 26 days of proceedings, the Byrne trial -- the largest white-collar case in the history of the State -- ended on a note of sorry resignation.

During his lengthy trial, the former solicitor had railed against Mr Kelly, the banks and the Law Society.

But he met his fate with a pensive silence yesterday as the foreman of the jury confirmed that he was guilty on each count.

Byrne, a separated father of three, bowed his head as if in prayer as the 50 separate guilty verdicts were read out.

Byrne, described by prosecutor Remy Farrell as "a gambler" who possibly hoped the jury would feel that he (Byrne) was exonerated because the banks engaged in reckless lending, himself ran a major gamble by contesting the trial with a defence in all but name of duress.

Byrne's hopes were raised last week when the jury asked trial judge Patrick McCartan if they could consider his claims of duress "in a human sense" after they were told to disregard it in a legal sense.

But the jury remained steadfast in the face of the intimidation claims and it remains to be seen if that gamble will pay off when Judge McCartan sentences Byrne next month.

Byrne endured several nights of final goodbyes as the jury took more than 17 hours over the course of a week to reach its verdicts.

But when their verdicts finally came, he showed no emotion, asking prison officials to lead him away.

He once rode high on the crest of the legal boom during the Celtic Tiger years, but last night Byrne settled in the once unthinkable, unfamiliar surroundings of Cloverhill prison.

Online Editors

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