The case against former solicitor Michael Lynn is “a simple case of greed and theft” and he stole millions of euro from the banks “pure and simple”, his multi-million euro theft trial has been told.
But counsel for Mr Lynn told the jury his defence is “straightforward”, that he had the permission of the banks to take out multiple loans and that if more bankers had acted prudently back in 2007 “maybe more of them would be in business today”.
Three and a half months after the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial opened in February, closing speeches started on Thursday.
In his closing speech to the jury, Patrick McGrath SC, prosecuting, told the jury that a key part of the case is the credibility of Mr Lynn.
He said if the jury believed what Mr Lynn was saying was reasonably true, then Mr Lynn was entitled to an acquittal.
“I'm going to seek to persuade you that what he has told you here is a fabricated pack of lies,” Mr McGrath said.
Mr Lynn (53) of Millbrook Court, Red Cross, Co Wicklow, is on trial accused of the theft of around €27m from seven financial institutions. He 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 financial institutions involved are Bank of Ireland, National Irish Bank (later known as Danske Bank), Irish Life and Permanent, Ulster Bank, ACC Bank, Bank of Scotland Ireland and Irish Nationwide Building Society.
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.
He told the court he and former Irish Nationwide chief executive Michael Fingleton were involved in a secret profit share agreement in relation to a property development in Portugal.
Mr McGrath put it to the jury that the “insinuation” by the defence that Mr Lynn was disadvantaged in the trial was a “fiction”. He told the jury that trial judge Martin Nolan has been managing the case for years and has heard a number of applications for adjournments and in relation to disclosures.
“Contrary to what would appear to be suggested at certain points, Mr Lynn hasn't suddenly landed in this trial,” Mr McGrath said. This was all part of Mr Lynn's attempts to create confusion, Mr McGrath said. He said Mr Lynn was a “master” in doing that.
Mr McGrath told the jury that “for years and years and years”, Mr Lynn never made anyone aware of the alleged secret deals and secret profit deals with senior bankers. Counsel said Mr Lynn avoided being interviewed, “fled to Brazil and resisted extradition tooth and nail”.
The jury was told Mr Lynn tried to divert blame onto the courts, the prosecution, Michael Fingleton, the late Sean Fitzpatrick, the Brazilian authorities, the Irish authorities — “the world and his wife”.
“None of these people are to blame,” Mr McGrath said. “The person who is to blame and the person who refused to take ownership of the fact he stole this money in 2007 is the man sitting in the dock and no one else.”
Mr McGrath said that despite the defence “moaning” about disclosures, it is accepted that everything the prosecution had in relation to this case was disclosed and that no effort was ever made by Mr Lynn to compel witnesses to come to court.
Mr McGrath told the jury that Mr Lynn was “not a simple man at sea” or a “small bit player”. He was “clearly a very clever man” who was involved in property development on a substantial scale.
In relation to how the offences could have happened, Mr McGrath put it to the jury that they had heard Mr Lynn was unable to get finance in certain countries where he wanted to build developments and “make a fortune”.
“So he siphons the money off,” Mr McGrath said. “He gets multiple mortgages on properties unknown to anyone else.” Mr Lynn exploited and manipulated what could retrospectively be seen as a weakness in the system in order to get the money, Mr McGrath said.
He misused this “naive system” whereby the banks trusted solicitors and believed a solicitor would be “an honest player” and could be relied upon to ensure their security was put in place, the jury was told.
“If all his ducks lined up in a row and everything came to fruition, at some stage he might pay off all this but that does not excuse what he has done,” Mr McGrath said. “It's still theft.”
Mr Lynn told the trial there are emails between him and a number of bankers to prove the existence of the secret deals, but that they are on a server that was in his law practice which was raided by the Law Society in 2007.
Mr McGrath told the jury there were two servers in the law practice which were handed over to gardaí and that Mr Lynn had “deliberately attempted to inject confusion” by introducing a third server, known as the Kendar server, into the case. Kendar was the name of Mr Lynn's property development company.
He said all of the material on the servers was made available to Mr Lynn and his defence team “a number of years ago” and then “out of the ether, a third server might exist”, Mr McGrath said.
“It is a big fat lie about there being something else missing out there,” he said.
He told the jury:
One and a half weeks ago, Mr McGrath said, Mr Lynn “nailed his colours to the mast” and named a number of bankers who he said were involved in the secret deals. As a result, the prosecution called a number of these bankers to give rebuttal evidence.
The court has heard Michael Fingleton is unable to attend court due to health issues, while Sean Fitzpatrick died last year. Of the seven rebuttal witnesses who took the stand this week, Mr McGrath said none of them were aware of secret deals.
“To a man, and they were all men, they say there are no secret deals,” counsel said. “To a man they say there are no payments. To a man they say there are no emails about secret deals.
“Most of them haven't even met him. Some of them weren't even in the bank. Some of them were in different departments.” It was as if Mr Lynn had gone through a directory and picked out names, McGrath said. “It's that bad.” Mr Lynn doesn't care about the reputation of anyone else, the jury was told. “He doesn't care what he says about anyone else to save his own skin,” Mr McGrath said.
Ms McAleenan and Ms Doyle were thrown under the bus and Mr Lynn didn't have the decency to give them the opportunity to answer the “outrageous allegations”, prosecution counsel said.
“Every attempt he made to try and blame other people have all fallen to pieces under the most elementary scrutiny,” Mr McGrath said.
This was “a simple case of greed and theft”, Mr McGrath said. Mr Lynn misled the banks, who would not have lent him the money if they had known he was using it for other purposes, the jury was told.
“He stole the money, pure and simple.” Mr McGrath urged the jury to return a guilty verdict on each of the 21 counts.
Starting his defence closing speech on Thursday, Paul Comiskey-O'Keeffe BL told the jury that the verdicts they deliver will affect Mr Lynn's life and the lives of his children.
“You have to live with it always, and Mr Lynn will have to live with it always,” he said.
Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe said the defence case was “somewhat straightforward”. In relation to Irish Nationwide, it is the defence case that there was a profit share agreement with Mr Fingleton.
In relation to the remaining institutions, it is the defence case that there was an understanding and the banks were aware of how Mr Lynn was going to spend the proceeds.
Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe told the jury that if this trial had occurred in 2007 and more bankers had acted prudently back then, maybe more of them would be in business today.
Defence counsel put it to the jury that the evidence before them has been affected by a lack of documents from the financial institutions. He said every institution before the court said there were further documents “that we didn't have”.
“That is where we say the unfairness is,” he said.
Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe said Mr Lynn was entitled to leave the jurisdiction in 2007 and entitled to travel to Portugal and then Brazil. In relation to the prosecution's assertion about Mr Lynn avoiding being interviewed by gardaí, defence counsel noted that no garda gave evidence in court in relation to this.
He told the jury that contrary to what the prosecution said, Mr Lynn was able to access finance abroad and gave evidence of a €24 million loan that was drawn down in Portugal.
Mr Lynn gave evidence to the jury that he engaged in these lending arrangements with the banks outside of the period the jury has to consider. Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe said this was evidence of Mr Lynn's “honest belief that this was custom and practice because of his position” and that he then “took advantage of an undertaking-only mortgage situation”.
The defence closing speech continues on Friday.