Ex-Irish nationwide executive accuses former solicitor Michael Lynn of lying

Home loans manager says he never met or spoke with him

A former senior Irish Nationwide banker said Michael Lynn was lying when he said he met and spoke with him, the former solicitor's multimillion euro theft trial has heard.

Former home loans manager at the building society, Brian Fitzgibbon, also told the court that he did not believe Mr Lynn was friendly with former Irish Nationwide chief executive Michael Fingleton.

Mr Fitzgibbon, described as a “senior officer” in the building society, gave evidence at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial of Mr Lynn on Tuesday. He told prosecuting counsel, Patrick McGrath SC, that he never met or spoke to Mr Lynn “in any capacity”.

Relationship

Mr Lynn previously told the trial he met Mr Fitzgibbon, whom he described as Mr Fingleton’s “right hand man”, several times and that they had a good relationship

The court heard that, as a result of matters that arose in the trial, Mr Fitzgibbon gave a statement to gardaí this week.

Under cross-examination from Paul Comiskey-O’Keeffe, defending, Mr Fitzgibbon told the trial that Mr Lynn’s claims that he spoke to him were “a lie”. He said he never met Mr Lynn and he never received any emails from Mr Lynn.

Mr Lynn (53) of Millbrook Court, Red Cross, Co Wicklow is on trial accused of the theft of around €27 million from seven financial institutions.

He has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of theft in Dublin between October 23rd, 2006 and April 20th, 2007.

It is the prosecution case that Mr Lynn obtained multiple mortgages on the same properties in a situation where banks were unaware that other institutions were also providing finance.

Mr Lynn has told his trial that the banks were aware he had multiple loans on the same properties and that this was “custom and practice” among bankers in Celtic Tiger Ireland. He has said he had “secret deals” with a number of bankers, who gave him permission to use the loan money for his property developments abroad.

Mr Lynn has named a number of witnesses who he said were involved in these secret deals and the prosecution has called a number of rebuttal witnesses.

Mr Fitzgibbon said it was his belief that the only Irish Nationwide banker who was in contact with Mr Lynn was Dún Laoghaire branch manager Mark Mulcahy, who has given evidence at the trial.

He said Irish Nationwide was an asset-backed lender that always registered the first legal charge on a property. Mr Fitzgibbon told the court that in his professional experience, not one financial institution “would ever, ever grant money on just an undertaking without an asset”.

Loans

Mr Fitzgibbon agreed with defence counsel that Mr Fingleton had “special powers” within the institution to amend the terms and conditions of loans. “It’s my belief, going back 14 years . . . he could amend and set the terms and conditions in respect of the facility,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

He said that in his experience, Mr Fingleton “may have changed the conditions and terms and the interest rate but he never lent without it being asset-backed”.

Mr Comiskey-O’Keeffe put it to Mr Fitzgibbon that the court is dealing with a secret profit arrangement between Mr Lynn and Mr Fingleton in relation to a property development in Portugal. “No,” Mr Fitzgibbon replied.

The witness said he couldn’t answer questions on such an alleged deal as that would be hearsay. Judge Nolan intervened, saying Mr Fitzgibbon “doesn’t know anything about it”.

Mr Fitzgibbon told the trial he did not believe Mr Lynn was friendly with Mr Fingleton. “Mr Fingleton never mentioned him,” he said.

In relation to whether there was a more informal process around bigger loans, he said: “If one was on friendly terms with Mr Fingleton, there may have been some leeway.”

Evidence

Giving evidence on the loan Mr Lynn took out from Irish Nationwide for Glenlion, the €5.5 million Howth property, Mr Fitzgibbon said he “wasn’t comfortable with it”, that it was above his discretionary limit and he sent it to Mr Fingleton for approval.

Defence counsel said the court has heard Mr Fingleton attempted to deny he approved this loan. “He tried to scapegoat you in relation to it?” Mr Comiskey-O’Keeffe asked Mr Fitzgibbon. “Correct,” Mr Fitzgibbon replied.

Two more bankers gave evidence at the trial on Tuesday and told the court they did not meet Mr Lynn or had no recollection of meeting him.

Micheál McHugh, a former regional credit manager of National Irish Bank, said he never met Mr Lynn in person or spoke to him on the phone. He said it was not in his remit to meet customers and he felt it was best practice to keep a distance from them.

When defence counsel put it to Mr McHugh that Mr Lynn had told the court he was known as Micheál as opposed to Michael, Mr McHugh replied that he is Micheál on his LinkedIn profile and “anyone can see that”.

Gerry O'Gorman, of Bank of Ireland, told the court he had no recollection of meeting Mr Lynn. He said any dealings he may have had with Mr Lynn was in his capacity as an assistant to the senior business manager.

Mr O’Gorman said he was never a member of the credit committee, as described by Mr Lynn. “To be blunt, I have never been anywhere near that level in the bank,” Mr O’Gorman told the court.

Detective Sergeant Ger Coomey of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau was the last witness to give evidence.

Profit

He brought the court through a list of bank workers who were mentioned by Mr Lynn as being aware of the secret profit deal with Mr Fingleton or the secret deals that Mr Lynn could use the loan monies for his overseas property developments.

The court heard Mr Fingleton is not fit to attend court while former Anglo chief Sean Fitzpatrick is deceased. Four bankers declined to give a statement to gardaí – one citing personal family circumstances and two others saying they had little to offer or couldn't offer anything material in relation to the case

A fourth banker did not wish to make a statement back in 2007 and still does not wish to do so, Det Sgt Coomey said.

Under questioning from defence counsel, the court heard the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has not issued subpoenas for these witnesses. Judge Nolan told the jury that the DPP “hardly ever summons a witness if they don’t have a statement from them”.

The trial resumes on Thursday, with closing speeches expected to begin.

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