Thomas Byrne guilty on all 50 counts of fraud, theft

Former solicitor convicted in Dublin of stealing some €51.8 million in property loans

Legal Affairs correspondent Ruadhán Mac Cormaic gives his analysis on today's verdict in the case of former solicitor Thomas Byrne, who has been found guilty on all 50 charges of theft and fraud offences totalling almost €52 million.

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 12:27

The former solicitor Thomas Byrne, who was accused of theft and fraud offences totalling almost €52 million, has been found guilty on all 50 charges.

The jury of seven men and five women at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court took more than 17 hours over six days of deliberations to reach its verdict.

Byrne (47) of Mountjoy Square, Dublin, was accused of theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8 million.

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The charges alleged he transferred clients’ homes into his name and then used them as collateral for property loans.

He was also accused of using invalid collateral to fraudulently borrow millions from six financial institutions.

He pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 50 counts of theft, forgery, using forged documents and deception between 2004 and 2007.

Byrne was remanded in custody until December 2nd, when he will be sentenced.

Byrne told the 27-day trial that his former business partner John Kelly forced him to borrow €51.8 million from the banks because they would no longer lend to him.

The accused claimed that Mr Kelly threatened to kill him and his seven-year-old daughter if he didn’t co-operate.

Before the jurors retired to consider a verdict, Judge McCartan told them they could not consider this as defence as Byrne was not under duress in the legal sense of the word.

The judge said the defence had not met several conditions necessary to run a legal defence of duress.

He said that if a defendant wished to rely on duress, the threats against them must be linked to specific instances of offending instead of a general claim of intimidation.

A defendant claiming duress must also have gone to the authorities as soon as possible after the offence.

Judge McCartan said there was no evidence Byrne complained to gardaí­ at any stage about being threatened by Mr Kelly.

“The law says that’s not good enough,” the judge said.

Lastly the judge said that a defendant may not run a duress defence if they associated with suspected criminals in the first place.

Judge McCartan said Byrne was claiming duress “in a human sense” but couldn’t claim it in a legal sense.

The jury was also told that the fact that some of the banks got their money back did not mean a offence did not occur. He said Byrne’s claims that he intended to repay the bank loans in full also did not offer a defence.

The jury began their deliberations at midday last Monday. They were given three large folders containing 300 exhibits as well as a laptop to view documents digitally.

A poster-sized flow chart was also provided detailing the allegations against Byrne.