Fugitive ex-solicitor Michael Lynn appears in Brazil court

Irishman fighting extradition to face charges over collapse of property empire

Michael Lynn following his arrest in Brazil. Photograph: Federal Police of Brazil

Michael Lynn following his arrest in Brazil. Photograph: Federal Police of Brazil

 

Fugitive solicitor Michael Lynn faced a federal judge in Brazil yesterday in the latest stage of his battle to avoid extradition to Ireland.

At the evening hearing in a federal courthouse in the northeastern city of Recife Mr Lynn was questioned by judge Flávia Tavares Dantas about the Irish Government’s extradition request.

Citing the sensitivity of the case, the judge closed the hearing to the public.

During it she granted a request by Mr Lynn’s defence team that its proceedings remain secret in order to protect his “right to privacy”. A court spokeswoman would only confirm that Mr Lynn was questioned by his own defence team as well as a Brazilian federal prosecutor.

Judge Dantas will send the video of yesterday’s session to the Supreme Court in Brasília, which will decide whether to extradite solicitor back to Ireland.

Court authorities were unable to say when the Supreme Court would rule on the case.

Mr Lynn, who is originally from Crossmolina, Co Mayo, fled Ireland in October 2007 with debts of €80 million. By the time his company unravelled he had amassed 148 properties, 154 bank accounts and assets worth more than €50 million.

Mr Lynn is believed to be facing 33 charges prepared by the Director of Public Prosecutions related to the collapse of his property business. It is understood some off the investors who lost money in his property schemes had planned to attend yesterday’s hearing but were advised against doing so by the legal team representing the Irish authorities.

Mr Lynn is fighting the extradition request. In a 2009 interview he said that while his borrowings were misguided, he does not believe he acted fraudulently.

Mr Lynn was brought from the prison where he has been held since his arrest at the end of August to the courthouse in the back of a prison service van. He was escorted into the court in handcuffs by federal police officers half an hour after his hearing was due to begin. He looked relaxed as he was taken up to face the judge.

It was not immediately clear if Mr Lynn, who changed his local legal representation last Friday, had tried again for bail.

Mr Lynn, who has rejected requests for court authorised interviews since his arrest, is reportedly making the best of the poor conditions at the Cotel prison where shares a large cell with 30 other people.

He is said to be giving classes to fellow inmates. Before his arrest he had been working as a part-time English teacher as well as trying to start up a local property business.

Legal sources in Recife told The Irish Times that Mr Lynn remains confident that he will not be extradited to Ireland.

He and his wife Bríd Murphy secured permanent residence status through the birth of their son in Brazil, which does not have an extradition treaty with Ireland. However, the two states recently decided to begin talks on an extradition treaty and agreed that they would treat extradition requests from each other on the basis of reciprocity pending the conclusion of an extradition treaty.

In recent years, Brazil’s government has undertaken a series of measures to end the country’s long-standing reputation as a safe haven for fugitives from justice in other jurisdictions.

Ms Murphy, who is expecting the couple’s second child, attended yesterday’s hearing but declined to comment when leaving the court with her husband’s legal team.