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Former solicitor on trial accused of theft of over €27 million from banks and building societies

A FORMER SOLICITOR has gone on trial accused of the theft of over €27 million from several banks and building societies 17 years ago.

Michael Lynn (55) with addresses in Millbrook Court, Redcross and Arklow, Co. Wicklow pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of stealing property from various financial institutions between 2006 and 2007.

Opening the trial today, John Berry BL, prosecuting, said the prosecution alleges that Mr Lynn obtained loans from certain banks and building societies to buy properties in Ireland while each was unaware that he had also approached multiple organisations for money.

He suggested that this was not “a case of carelessness” and that the prosecution will say Mr Lynn “deceived” these banks and building societies, stealing over €27 million from these institutions over a nine-month period between October 2006 and June 2007. 

He said Mr Lynn is a former solicitor who “self-described” as a property investor and knew how the market worked.

Mr Berry said the prosecution alleges Mr Lynn obtained a loan for €3.65 million for the purpose of purchasing a number of residential investment properties from Ulster Bank.

It is alleged that while Mr Lynn was obtaining mortgages for certain properties from Ulster Bank, he was also getting loans from other institutions for some of the same properties.

Counsel said the prosecution will say that Mr Lynn gave Ulster Bank documents including a solicitor’s undertakings and a statement of affairs. 

He said the jury would hear that Ulster Bank were told they would receive the first legal charge on the property.

He noted that banks frequently look for the first legal charge as security against a mortgage as if something goes wrong, they will own the property and can sell it to recoup their losses.

Mr Berry said banks would release money at that time if they obtained a solicitor’s undertaking, “a solemn promise” from the solicitor to receive the funds and use them for the purchase of a property.

He told the jury that in the case of one property, Glenlion in Howth, Mr Lynn obtained a loan from Irish Nationwide Building Society on 4 April, 2007 for €4.12 million to buy the property.

Mr Lynn then obtained a loan of €3.78 million on 12 April from ACC Bank, and €3.85 million from Bank of Scotland Ireland on 19 April, for the same property.

Mr Berry said Glenlion’s guide price was €5.5 million and it is alleged Mr Lynn obtained finance in excess of €11 million.

He told jurors the prosecution say Mr Lynn obtained €1.2 million in mortgages to buy another property valued at €390,000. 

They will also hear evidence that Mr Lynn received over €500,000 to buy another property, but didn’t buy it.

The financial institutions involved were Bank of Ireland, National Irish Bank (later known as Danske Bank), Irish Life and Permanent, Ulster Bank, ACC Bank, Bank of Scotland Ireland Ltd and Irish Nationwide Building Society. 

Mr Berry said Anglo Irish Bank insisted on using its own solicitors and secured the first legal charge on Mr Lynn’s loans.

He said the prosecution alleges that Mr Lynn was in a position to carry out these thefts due to his understanding of the nature and importance of a first legal charge and of a solicitor’s undertaking.

Mr Berry said the prosecution will allege that statements of affairs provided to banks contained errors and weren’t from the firm of accountants they claimed to come from.

He said theft is defined in law as “taking something without the consent of the owner”. 

He noted that consent “obtained by deception” is not consent.  

He said the prosecution alleges that Mr Lynn was able to deceive banks and building societies as he “understood the system” as a solicitor and property investor.

Mr Berry noted that the alleged thefts took place in 2006 and 2007 and some may think that banks got bailed out for what happened around that time and “have not been overburdened by humility or gratitude since then”.

He told jurors they must put aside any prejudices they may have towards banks or lawyers and assess the facts in this case “coldly and clinically”.

The trial is expected to last for up to eight weeks and continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.