Former solicitor Thomas Byrne has been convicted of stealing €52m from the banks and defrauding 13 clients out of their houses or money.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on all 50 charges of theft, forgery and deception yesterday after deliberating for 17 and a half hours over the course of six days.
The trial, which lasted 27 days, is the largest theft case in the history of the State. The jury was unanimous in convicting Byrne on all counts. He stared down and did not react as the verdicts were read out.
Judge Patrick McCartan said the evidence was overwhelming against Byrne and that the jurors’ decision was “almost inevitable”.
Byrne was remanded in custody until Dec 2, when he will be sentenced. Judge McCartan directed that he receive his medication while in custody.
Byrne, aged 47, of Mountjoy Square, Dublin, was accused of theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8m. The charges alleged that Byrne transferred clients’ homes into his name and then used them as collateral for property loans. Byrne was also accused of using invalid collateral to fraudulently borrow millions from six financial institutions.
He had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 50 counts of theft, forgery, using forged documents, and deception between 2004 and 2007. The jury had previously being ordered to acquit him of another count due to lack of evidence.
The trial, which was the first to digitally display exhibits on computer screens throughout the courtroom, was divided into two modules.
The first dealt with how Byrne signed his client’s homes into his own name without their knowledge using forged signatures. His victims included his close friend, a 91-year-old woman, and an investment partnership made up of three gardaí.
The second module detailed how Byrne used the same properties as collateral with different financial institutions to borrow €51.8m.
These offences involved Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Nationwide Building Society, KBC, Bank of Scotland Ireland, National Irish Bank, and EBS.
The jury of seven men and five women were told the events occurred at “the very zenith of the Celtic Tiger” when people were “getting large amounts of money from banks on very flimsy paperwork”.
Jurors were warned that the banks were not on trial in the case and any reckless lending they engaged in did not excuse Byrne’s actions.
Byrne offered no legal defence to the allegations concerning the banks except claiming that he was being threatened by his former business partner, property developer John Kelly, into taking out the loans on his behalf.
Regarding the clients’ properties, Byrne claimed they had transferred them to him willingly in return for payment at a later date. He said one friend transferred his house as a favour so he could use it as collateral on a loan.
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