Brion Hoban and Sonya McLean
A solicitor who worked for Michael Lynn & Co Solicitors has told his trial that she was unaware of the details of his borrowings.
Mr Lynn (53) is on trial accused of the theft of around €27 million from seven financial institutions.
Mr Lynn, of Millbrook Court, Red Cross, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of theft in Dublin between October 23rd, 2006 and April 20th, 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 Mortgages Bank Ltd, Danske Bank, Irish Life and Permanent, Ulster Bank, ACC Bank PLC, Bank of Scotland Ireland Ltd, and Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS).
Giving evidence on Thursday, Fiona McAleenan, who worked for Michael Lynn & Co Solicitors, rejected the submission of Paul Comiskey O’Keeffe BL, defending, that in March 2007 she was involved in conveyancing in the firm.
Ms McAleenan agreed she made a number of statements to gardaí. She agreed she received legal advice after making an initial statement not to make any subsequent statements until certain legal proceedings were resolved.
She said that when these proceedings were resolved, she made possibly eight further statements to gardaí. She said that she received the assistance of a solicitor when drafting her initial statement.
Counsel put it to her that the general practise regarding undertakings is that the responsibility to ensure compliance rests with the solicitor who gave the undertaking.
Ms McAleenan replied that she did not accept that at all, saying she gave undertakings with the understanding that members of staff would make sure of compliance.
Counsel put it to her that she was “completely wrong” about that and that the Law Society has made this clear. She replied that she was not aware of that and that the Law Society had not contacted her regarding this.
Mr Comiskey O'Keefe put it to her that aside from her awareness of undertakings, she was aware of Mr Lynn's borrowings. Ms McAleenan replied that she was aware that he was building up a property portfolio in a broad sense, but was unaware of the details.
Counsel suggested there were a number of ways she was aware of these borrowings other than the undertakings she denied she signed. She said that through general conversation in the office she knew he was purchasing properties.
Earlier in the trial, Ms McAleenan agreed with defence counsel that she had been in partnership negotiations with Mr Lynn, but said she was “never a partner”.
She said an accountant had acted on her behalf for the negotiations as she had no experience in such matters and a percentage had been offered to her that she was not happy with. She said the accountant had contacted her and told her that he would advise her.
Ms McAleenan said she recalls that she was offered was 10 per cent, but she thought she looked for between 25-30 percent. She said she had not looked into the financial details of the firm as her accountant had done that.
Ms McAleenan said the reason the partnership never happened is because the accountant had advised that she would need sight of more detailed documentation, but she never received those documents.
She agreed that a draft partnership agreement had been presented to her, but when suggested to her by counsel that Mr Lynn says she drew up that agreement, she said she could not recall.
Ms McAleenan agreed with counsel that she wrote to the Law Society at some point in 2005 and notified them that she was a partner at the firm.
She said Mr Lynn had asked her to do so because he wanted to take on an additional trainee and that trainee would have to be appointed to a partner. She said she wrote the letter to help the trainee and also because she “was on the promise” of a partnership.
She told Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe she was not aware that she didn’t need to be a partner to train a trainee rather she just needed seven years’ experience.
“That was what Michael Lynn told me,” Ms McAleenan said.
She said she didn’t recall telling the staff at the firm that she was a partner and didn’t recall an email being sent to staff about it.
She acknowledged that on the firm stationary she was named as partner but said she couldn’t recall if she had a business card that stated she was a partner.
Ms McAleenan said she does not recall phone calls with certain bank officials who had earlier told the trial they had spoken to Fiona McAleenan on the phone.
“I never spoke to them,” she said.
She said she also didn’t recall receiving a large cheque in the firm that had been delivered in person, but acknowledged that a letter shown to the jury, indicating that the cheque had been received to the office, was signed by her.
Ms McAleenan accepted that it was “a one-line letter” and said she assumed she must have read it, but agreed with a suggestion from Mr Comiskey O’Keeffe that “she was not one bit curious about it”.
“I didn’t ask any questions about it,” Ms McAleenan said. The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.