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Tuesday 24 April 2018

From €5.5m mansion to a prison vigil for Lynn wife

Wanted solicitor's spouse tries to visit him every day in jail

Michael Lynn and his wife Brid
Michael Lynn and his wife Brid

THE queue outside the Cotel, a high-security prison deep in the grim industrial outreaches of the Brazilian city of Recife, begins to form at about 1am on Sunday mornings.

At first there are just a few women in the darkness, beside the eight-foot wall and guard towers.

Then more come, clutching bedding that they will sleep on, before handing it to their loved ones inside.

As dawn breaks, the line numbers in the many hundreds and dozens of hawkers with makeshift stalls tout Brazilian snacks, soft drinks and items of men's clothing to the crowd.

Then, often, an Evangelical pastor appears with a plastic gazebo and a sound system and begins to preach repentance to the crowd, who are almost universally poor Brazilians whose husbands or boyfriends are in jail for offences ranging from petty theft to murder.

And at 8am the doors open.

For Brid Murphy, the wife of solicitor Michael Lynn who was arrested last week and taken to the overcrowded Cotel during extradition proceedings, it would have been quite an experience.

Her life in Ireland was in their €5.5m mansion with private beach on Howth Head.

In recent years their life had been lived in a villa in a beach neighbourhood of Recife, which came with a swimming pool, barbecue area and state-of-the-art security system.

But the life they had built came crashing down on Thursday of last week when Mr Lynn, who is wanted for an alleged €80m mortgage fraud in Ireland, was arrested by Brazil's federal police near their home.

And just three days later, if she wanted to see her husband – now confined to the prison as a likely flight risk – Brid, who is seven months pregnant with her second child, would have had no choice but to join the ladies of the Cotel in their long wait.

And, according to a friend, wait she has.

"She has tried to visit him every day," said Mark Astle, a family friend and the director of an English school in Recife where Mr Lynn taught young adults for a wage of around €150 a week.

"But families are meant to only visit on Sundays and even then it is very difficult."

She is said to have broken down in tears at her reunion with Mr Lynn at a police station soon after his arrest. On other days she is said to have gone to the prison with his lawyer but has had trouble gaining entry.

Brid, who has declined all requests for interviews, is said to be in a fragile state and to be focusing on helping her husband while maintaining some sense of normality for her son.

However, she will be hoping that he will soon be back by her side as he is preparing to seek bail next week.

Paulo Cesar, one of Mr Lynn's lawyers, confirmed his legal team would be seeking bail on Monday.

"It's true we will be asking the judge for him to plead his case in liberty," he said last night. "A judge will decide whether to grant this or not. Mr Lynn will not be required in court."

The paperwork is expected to be submitted to the capital Brasilia but Mr Lynn himself is not required to give evidence. His testimony will be heard in due course.

Previously, another of Mr Lynn's lawyers, Eloy Moury, indicated his defence would seek bail for Mr Lynn but said it was unlikely to be granted.

He said bail was "practically impossible" in extradition cases.

In 2008, Mr Lynn and his wife were known to have been the listed owners of Golino, a real estate company in another city in north-eastern Brazil, Fortaleza, in Ceara state.

But their work permit application linked to the company was reportedly rejected in September 2008.

All then went quiet, and while it was known the pair had eventually later been granted residency by virtue of their Brazilian-born child, their location in the country was a mystery – until last week.

They were, it emerged, living 700km further south in a villa in the seaside neighbourhood of Candeias just outside Recife, just 300m from the nearest beach.

Neighbours say they would rarely interact, instead leading a self-contained life behind their fortified walls.

When the Irish Independent visited the house the family are believed to have lived in, no one answered the buzzer but a ginger dog could be seen stalking the well-kept garden scattered with children's toys.

But while the geographical setting may have been idyllic, the neighbourhood itself left a little to be desired. The streets are unpaved and rubbish is strewn by the side of the road. Donkeys graze on undeveloped land. Asked if the area was dangerous, a taxi driver answered: "A little."

All foreigners are required to register their address with the federal police and although they appeared to have connections to two properties in the area, it was a simple matter for officers to locate Mr Lynn and learn his routine.

In a video of his arrest at a shopping centre released last week, he is seen to raise his hands and shrug his shoulders.

His daily routine was simple. He would spend time at the Britanic Piedade school, where he taught for 13 hours a week and his native English skills and "humble charm" were valued. He would also visit the nearby office of the company he registered in yet another shot at achieving property riches.

The firm, named Quantum Consulting and Ventures, was registered in October 2011 and remains active, according to the Pernambuco Board of Trade.

Documents show the firm had capital of €574,720 – riches when compared with the €962 a month rent the couple were said to be paying or the €635 per month he earned teaching English.


Despite his apparently low wages he is also said to have been a member of the exclusive Caxanga Golf and Country Club in Recife, where individual memberships start at €174/month.

Knowing there is no formal treaty between Ireland and Brazil, the family may even have begun to feel secure. According to friends, they were shocked by the arrest, which was enabled by a secret bilateral agreement between Ireland and Brazil that changed the relevant extradition rules.

Now the family faces the prospect of a lengthy court battle to keep him in Brazil. The initial process must be completed within 90 days, but appeals are also possible. And all the while, Mr Lynn is all but certain to remain in the Cotel, even if he is now in a section of the jail reserved for university graduates.

If she decides to return again to the prison tomorrow to face the humiliation of the queue, you can only imagine whether Brid Murphy will still consider their whole Brazilian escapade worthwhile.

By Matt Sandy Recife, Brazil

Irish Independent

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