Small-time solicitor who became property tycoon with worldwide network
Lynn had amassed 148 properties in nine countries
Michael Lynn: After the first legal actions began against him, he left Ireland. An arrest warrant was issued in late 2007 after he failed to attend at the High Court. He has not returned to Ireland since. Photograph: Garrett White/Collins
Michael Lynn’s transformation from a small-time solicitor with a one-man practice in west Dublin into a tycoon with 148 properties, 154 bank accounts and assets worth more than €50 million, read like a parody of the boom. His downfall – fast, steep and public – cast him as an archetypal character in the story of the bust.
Originally from Co Mayo, Lynn became a solicitor in the mid-1990s and, with a practice that specialised in litigation and property conveyancing, he belonged to a large cohort of professionals who had a privileged view of the dizzying expansion of Irish property developers’ overseas interests.
He decided he wanted a piece of the action and his business interests grew rapidly. Lynn’s legal firm was based in Blanchardstown, west Dublin, but he later moved to Capel Buildings near the Four Courts, where it practised as Capel Law.
He became involved in property development through his company, Kendar Holdings, which built apartments in Leitrim and offices in Cavan, but the business soon expanded overseas – starting with a holiday home development in Portugal in late 2003. Kendar grew and grew. Lynn continued to run his legal practice.
The solicitor’s problems came to public attention in October 2007, when the Law Society secured an order freezing Lynn’s assets amid concerns that his law firm had been used for personal transactions and that there appeared to be a “free flow of funds” from that account to Kendar’s account.
It emerged in court that an accountant sent in by the Law Society to investigate the situation had found a “minimum deficit” of just over €700,000 in the firm’s client accounts but she believed the actual deficit could be much higher.
She said Lynn had allegedly drawn down loans of €26.371 million since January 2007 but had failed to provide documentation on the loans when requested.
The Law Society’s accountant found that Lynn had many personal transactions through the client account, which is prohibited under Solicitors Accounts Regulations.
By that stage, the High Court heard, Lynn owned 148 properties either personally or through his firm. Of these, 35-40 were in nine countries. He had bought 40 properties in the previous 12 months, all financed by loans. The courts later heard Lynn raised money to fund his property development and investment network by taking out multiple mortgages on a number of properties.
There were over 130 legal proceedings against him from banks and other financial institutions and from many of his clients, and his debts have been estimated at €80 million. By the time his firm collapsed, Lynn had 154 bank accounts in Ireland, continental Europe and the US.
After the first of the legal actions was begun against him, Lynn left Ireland. A contempt of court arrest warrant was issued for him in late 2007 after he failed to attend at the High Court. He has not returned to Ireland since then. Lynn was struck off the roll of solicitors and is the subject of a Garda investigation.
In August 2009, he was interviewed by police in Budapest, Hungary, but he could not be extradited to Ireland because there were no criminal charges against him. Lynn was also reported to be based in Bulgaria and Portugal, but he is known to have been living in Brazil for some time. In October last year, the Brazilian embassy in Dublin confirmed he had been granted permanent residency there.
In occasional media interviews, Lynn has said that while his extensive borrowings were “misguided”, he does not believe he acted fraudulently.
“The one thing I want to make clear is that I am not going to be a scapegoat for others,” he has said. “I am not going to be used as an example of what was recognised as an acceptable form and practice of business by bankers, lawyers, accountants and auctioneers. I am not going to be the poster boy who ends up in prison to my cost alone.”