Former solicitor Michael Lynn has told his multi-million euro theft trial that he was greedy and too driven but he was not a thief. He is accused of the theft of around €27 million from seven financial institutions.
Mr Lynn also told the court that he had a "profit share" arrangement with former Irish Nationwide chief executive Michael Fingleton
In his third day giving evidence at his Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial on Wednesday, Mr Lynn (53) described the banks as “confederates” in terms of their relationship with him.
“They were willing to lend to me,” he said. “Always, always, I had an intention to repay the banks. Without the banks, you are just a person with ideas. Without your name, with the banks, you are just nothing.”
Mr Lynn told the trial: “I am not a thief”.
He said he was “greedy” and “too driven” but that the banks used him to make money off of him.
Naming numerous banks and multiple staff members, Mr Lynn described a practice whereby a loan would be given in relation to one property or development but used on another by being rolled over.
No bank could not have known what was occurring, he said. “First of all it was done openly, it was discussed and I repaid those loans. I didn’t create a scheme. I worked alongside the banks. It wasn’t right and I have paid dearly for it. I have paid dearly for a long time.”
If a bank give a facility to someone for 12 months, and the loan had not be repaid, there ought to have been a new letter of loan or an extension acknowledged by letter, Mr Lynn said.
“There is no letter because it was done verbally,” said Mr Lynn. “If [the banks are] now claiming to be innocent of participation, why didn’t they stop me?”
During questioning by his own barrister, Paul Comiskey-O’Keeffe BL, Mr Lynn said that he had had three loans on the €5.5 million property, Glenlion in Howth, Dublin. One of the loans came from Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) which was then run by Michael Fingleton.
However, the court heard that money was not used for that property but for a development that Mr Lynn had undertaken in Portugal and wished to expand.
“I had an arrangement with Michael Fingleton that he was to have a profit share with me in relation to my development in Portugal,” said Mr Lynn. “He lent the money to me, which was purportedly for Glenlion but was actually for my development in Portugal.”
Judge Martin Nolan intervened and asked: “Let’s be clear, you are saying the Michael Fingleton had a personal profit share with you to profit from this, even though it was the institution of INBS who lent you the money.”
Mr Lynn agreed that was what he was saying.
Mr Lynn described his relationship with senior figures in Irish banking in the Celtic Tiger era and about how, when the High Court froze his bank accounts in late 2007, they came to regard him as “toxic”.
He said Mr Fingleton was worried about Mr Lynn giving evidence in court and describing the relationship between banks and developers.
“Michael Fingleton felt that the lending that we had would cause too much attention to him and his bank, if I was to start explaining the culture that existed for the previous three to five years.” Mr Lynn told Mr Comiskey-O’Keeffe.
That culture, Mr Lynn explained, involved a borrower getting a loan ostensibly to buy property in Ireland but in reality using it to invest abroad.
He told the trial that in September 2007, he was on business in Portugal with his wife when he was told of a Law Society letter to the partners in his practice back in Dublin. The Society had tasked an inspector to examine the business, the court heard.
The inspection was “focused very much on my borrowing – entirely on that”, Mr Lynn said.
In October 2007, the High Court froze his bank accounts and the accounts of his legal and property companies.
“The entire structure was frozen overnight,” Mr Lynn said, adding that he was “stopped in my tracks”.
He started to get calls from bankers, people he had dealt with personally, who were getting concerned about his ability to repay.
Mr Lynn said he went to bankers, including Michael Fingleton and Sean FitzPatrick of Anglo Irish Bank , and sought “breathing space”.
He told the court he said to them: “Look, I’m in a real crisis here and I need to get some time to see can I sort this out.”
“My intention, as it always had been, was to repay since the first loan in 1997. I wanted to do everything I could to try and sort this, for myself and everyone I had relations with,” he said.
Mr Lynn said Michael Fingleton said he was “concerned the impact the story could have on banking”.
Mr Lynn said his loans at the time “were probably around €70 million” and to repay them on one was “simply impossible”.
Mr Fingleton was concerned, said Mr Lynn, about him [Mr Lynn]”going into the stand and giving evidence”.
In response to the inquiries about his affairs, he said he swore an affidavit in which “I didn’t try to hide . . . I knew at that stage that I was finished as a solicitor but I hadn’t lost the will to live.”
Mr Comiskey-O’Keeffe put it to Mr Lynn that he had been required to attend the High Court and be cross examined and asked him if he had attended.
“No I didn’t,” said Mr Lynn. “What had happened was I had meetings with the banks, with key individuals who had consented to loans. It was indicated to me that I needed to take the hit and that I could start again.”
He said Mr Fingleton and Mr FitzPatrick “indicated [ to me] that I was toxic”.
He had what he described as a general meeting with bankers before he had been asked to give evidence. They were all concerned, he said in evidence. At another meeting with a group of bankers, of whom he said he knew three, “They appeared to be really nervous.”
Mr Lynn, of Millbrook Court, Red Cross, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of theft in Dublin between October 23, 2006 and April 20, 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.
The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.