Law Society rejects claim it had accountant in Byrne’s practice
Ex-solicitor found guilty on all 50 charges of theft and fraud
A jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday unanimously found Thomas Byrne guilty of 50 theft and fraud charges. Photograph: Courtpix
The Law Society investigated Thomas Byrne a year before his solicitors’ practice was shut down but it has denied Mr Byrne’s claim that it had an accountant based in his office for two years before his €52 million fraud was revealed.
A jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday unanimously found Byrne guilty of 50 theft and fraud charges in the biggest white-collar trial to date held in the State. He was found to have fraudulently transferred clients’ homes to his name and then used them as collateral for property loans from six banks.
In his evidence, Byrne said he was under “constant monitoring” by the Law Society from 2004 and that the society had an accountant based in his Walkinstown practice for two years before a tip-off from a fellow solicitor led to his office being closed in October 2007.
The director general of the Law Society, Ken Murphy, last night welcomed the verdicts but said it was not true that it had an accountant based in Byrne’s office for this period.
“The society is satisfied that Mr Byrne falsified reports on the financial position of his practice to the society,” Mr Murphy added, and this was not discovered until the practice was closed down.
Byrne appeared before the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal in 2006 after a Law Society investigation found a deficit of €1.7 million in his client account. The tribunal found him guilty of misconduct and fined him €15,000 but did not recommend that he be struck off.
Byrne (47), who lives at Mountjoy Square in Dublin and works as a waiter, sat with his head bowed as the 50 verdicts were read out after 17 hours of jury deliberations. At the back of the court, officers from the Garda fraud bureau nodded to one another as the foreman confirmed that the verdicts on all 50 charges were unanimous.
Judge Patrick McCartan said the evidence was overwhelming against Byrne and the jury’s decision was “almost inevitable”. He said he was very impressed with the jurors’ attention to the 26-day trial before excusing them from further service. “We are going into a period when the courts will have to deal with many complex trials,” the judge told the jurors. “You give us great confidence that the jury and jurors of this city and county can deal with these types of cases.”
Byrne was remanded in custody until sentencing on December 2nd.