Former solicitor Michael Lynn has told his multi-million euro theft trial he was not involved in the day-to-day running of his practice between 2005 and 2007.
Mr Lynn took the stand in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday.
The trial, which is now in its 13th week, was paused for nearly two weeks after it emerged Mr Lynn had tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr Lynn (53) of Millbrook Court, Red Cross, Co Wicklow, is accused of the theft of around €27 million from seven financial institutions. He has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of theft in Dublin between October 23rd, 2006 and April 20th, 2007.
It is the prosecution's case that Mr Lynn obtained multiple mortgages on the same properties in a situation where the banks were unaware that other institutions were also providing finance.
Under questioning from defence barrister, Paul Comiskey O'Keeffe BL, Mr Lynn gave evidence of growing up on a farm in Co Mayo, his education in Trinity College Dublin and his subsequent solicitor apprenticeship with a Dublin firm, where he said he started in the debt collection department.
Mr Lynn said he worked for two law firms before joining Budget Travel as an in-house solicitor. In 1997, he set up his own practice working out of a house in Clonsilla, which he said he bought with a loan from his mother.
Mr Lynn told the court the practice was run from the sitting room, dining room and kitchen of a house where he lived upstairs.
The trial heard the practice moved to an office space in Blanchardstown and expanded over the coming years. “In '97, '98, '99, things were just exploding,” Mr Lynn said. “It was a good time for someone starting their own business.”
He said in his first year he opened 400 files: “It was a lot to manage,” he said.
Mr Lynn said he hired a number of people including Liz Doyle, his legal executive who has given evidence at the trial. He said she was more experienced than he was in terms of “processes and file running”. “In fairness she was very, very good,” he added.
When asked about the culture in his practice, Mr Lynn said he worked very hard and was “very driven”. “In fairness to anyone who worked for me, I would say I paid well, but at the outset I would explain I expected people to work hard.”
The court heard the practice continued to expand, with more solicitors employed in the firm. “We managed in about 18 months to bring a turnover of €1.5 million,” Mr Lynn said.
A number of clients were property developers and it was around this time that Mr Lynn's involvement in property development began, the trial heard. He recalled being at meetings with people like Albert Reynolds, who was chairman of one such client, Cunningham Property.
Mr Lynn said he learnt about “all the facets of property development” at that time and that as a “young solicitor” it was a “great learning experience”.
Mr Lynn told the trial he would bring one of the solicitors from his firm to meetings with property developer clients because he “didn't have that level of experience”. “I had good people around me,” he said.
Mr Lynn gave evidence of his first investment property mortgage, a €130,000 loan for a home in Balbriggan which, he said, he sold four months later for €190,000.
“That's just the way it was at the time,” he said. “The market was literally moving upwards on a two to three month basis.”
Mr Lynn described at length his overseas property dealings as part of his company, Kendar Holdings Ltd, which he said he named after his two friends who had died.
The jury was told the company had about 15-20 employees in Ireland by September 2007 with developments in Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria.
Mr Lynn said at one point he was advised by his bank to employ a qualified accountant for Kendar Holdings as the company was growing so quickly. “There was such a multitude of developments at that time, I couldn't have kept an eye on everything,” he told the trial. “It was impossible.”
He said that by 2004, he was dividing his time 60:40 between Kendar and his practice, Michael Lynn & Co.
“In the last half of 2005 until October 2007, I wasn't involved day to day in the running of the practice at all,” he said. “I was constantly travelling.”
The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.