Former solicitor admits to engaging in ‘unorthodox deals’ with clients

Former solicitor Thomas Byrne said he engaged in several “unorthodox” deals with clients to transfer their houses into his name, but denies engaging in fraud.

On his second day of cross-examination during his €52m theft and fraud trial, Mr Byrne denied he forged the signature of Aideen Costigan to transfer her family home into his name without her knowledge. He told prosecuting counsel Remy Farrell SC that Ms Costigan agreed to sell the house for €410,000 with the understanding that she would not receive the money for several months.

Mr Byrne said he intended to pay Ms Costigan when he “came into funds”, but the Law Society moved in and shut down his practice before this could happen.

Mr Byrne said he acted for Ms Costigan in the deal but she did not know it was he who was buying the house. He said it was his practice not to tell clients that he was the purchaser when buying their houses.

Mr Farrell asked the accused if he expected the jury to believe Ms Costigan agreed to hand over her house on the promise of a stranger to pay her the money sometime in the future.

“Wouldn’t she be better off parting with the title deeds for a bag of magic beans?” counsel asked.

Mr Byrne said that Ms Costigan was happy to sign over the house to anyone because she would receive above the market value when she was paid.

Mr Byrne, aged 47, of Walkinstown Rd, Crumlin, is accused of theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8m. The charges allege he transferred clients’ homes into his name and then used them as collateral for property loans.

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

The trial continues.


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