The jury in the multi-million euro theft trial of former solicitor Michael Lynn has begun its deliberations.
The jury retired to the jury room on Friday morning, after the defence counsel concluded its closing speeches in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial.
Mr Lynn was making monthly repayments and there were no complaints from any of the banks in relation to his loans until solicitor Fiona McAleenan contacted the Law Society in September 2007, Paul Comiskey-O'Keefe BL, defending, said.
“You have monthly compliance and repayments to the banks,” Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe said. “It's ironic a man who pays his bills is being accused of dishonesty.”
Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe said the jury should be suspicious of Ms McAleenan's motivation in contacting the Law Society in September 2007 – an action he said “blew up (Mr Lynn's) practice and blew up his life”.
Ms McAleenan worked for Mr Lynn from 2004 to 2007 and spent six days in the witness box during the three-and-a-half month trial.
Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe submitted Ms McAleenan was “not a compelling witness”. He said there was “clear evidence” in the form of text messages that she knew about Mr Lynn's banking practices.
“All of the banks were aware,” defence counsel said. “They were comfortable with the situation. They were being paid back on a monthly basis. What stopped the music was Fiona McAleenan going to the Law Society.”
Mr Comiskey-O'Keeffe said all of Mr Lynn's lendings were “totally transparent across the board” within his company and that there was no deceit or deception in this case.
He said the banks were engaged in forensic analysis of Mr Lynn's affairs and that “every single bank” was looking at Mr Lynn's property development company, Kendar.
He said the banks understood this was a series of repayments and he urged the jury to acquit Mr Lynn on all counts.
An innocent man
In his charge to the jury, Judge Martin Nolan urged the jury to disregard anything they may have read about Mr Lynn in the papers in recent years. “You may like or dislike Mr Lynn,” he told the jury. “He is still entitled to a fair trial.”
Judge Nolan said Mr Lynn is an innocent man and will only become a guilty man if the jury collectively decides he is guilty.
He said the big question in this case was whether there was deception. He said the banks voluntarily made orders for the monies to be paid to Mr Lynn.
“That is not a problem,” he said. “The State is saying these payments were made as a result of deception. If they can't prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, you can't consider a conviction.”
Judge Nolan noted that Mr Lynn “knew what he was going to say” and knew the names of the bankers he says were involved in secret deals. He said the defence was “not powerless” and could subpoena witnesses they wanted to give evidence.
He told the jury that if it concluded Mr Lynn had permission to use the funds from the banks for his overseas property developments, then they must acquit him.
He said if the jurors didn't believe Mr Lynn had permission from the banks, then “that's not the end of it.” He said the jury must then examine the State's case and conclude that they have proven it beyond reasonable doubt, in order to convict.
He said the jury must decide what was happening - was it a fraud perpetrated by Lynn, or a charade between him and the banks?
Before the jury began its deliberations, one of the 13 jurors had to be discharged. At the start of the trial, 15 jurors were empanelled due to the anticipated length of the trial. Two jurors were excused for various reasons during the trial and only 12 jurors are allowed to deliberate.
After one juror was chosen at random not to deliberate, Judge Nolan apologised and thanked her for her attention throughout the trial. He gave her a 10-year exemption from serving again.
Mr Lynn (53) of Millbrook Court, Red Cross, Co Wicklow is on trial 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 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.
The trial continues.