herald

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Byrne weeps as he thanks €52m alleged victims

Thomas Byrne. Photo: Collins
Thomas Byrne. Photo: Collins

FORMER solicitor Thomas Byrne broke down in tears as he thanked his past clients and alleged victims for the "fair evidence" they gave in his trial and for "not going to town".

On his third day of cross-examination during his €52m theft and fraud trial, he agreed with prosecuting counsel Remy Farrell SC that it was "a striking feature" of his evidence that he "spoke with genuine affection" for his former clients.

Mr Byrne said he could not comment on a suggestion from counsel that they seemed to have "a residual affection for you" before starting to cry in the witness box.

He refused to accept a suggestion that these people had all turned on him and hung him out to dry.

"No, they gave evidence because they had to. None of them went to town on their evidence and they were very fair," he said.

Mr Byrne (47), of Walkinstown Road, Crumlin, is accused of theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8m. The charges allege that he transferred clients' homes into his name and used them as collateral for property loans.

He has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 50 counts of theft, forgery, using forged documents and deception between 2004 and 2007.

Mr Byrne did not accept a suggestion from Mr Farrell that on his account each of his clients had "independently of each other" come up with a scam of going to the Law Society and telling them "a pack of lies" in order to get the deeds of transfer for their properties returned to them.

"Collectively, what they have in common is that they were all caught in the crossfire when my practice closed," he told the jury. "It is not a scam. I will refuse to say it, because that is not my opinion."

Counsel asked why he was not angry that all these people were "swearing a hole through a bucket and trying to land him in jail".

Mr Byrne said he had a lot to be angry about, but had a kind of stoicism.

Mr Farrell told him: "Do you want to persist with your story that makes perjurers of all these people you have regard for?"

Mr Byrne replied: "I deeply regret being here but the reality is that I got into the witness box to tell the truth and that is what I have been doing."

He acknowledged there was not "a single jot of paper, not a yellow Post-it" that documented what counsel termed "an extraordinary and unorthodox agreement" between him and his clients in relation to transferring their homes to him on the understanding that he would give them the agreed funds at a later date.

"This is very unfortunate, given where you are now," suggested Mr Farrell.

"Yes," replied Mr Byrne.

It was his evidence that files existed in relation to each of the alleged victims but he did not know where they are.

INNOCENCE

Counsel asked why he did not look for these files and suggested they would have assisted in proving his innocence.

"I have given evidence that there would have been files. I don't know where they are," said Mr Byrne.

"Do you agree that you are unfortunate given the untruths from your clients about you, unfortunate given the evidence others have given against you, unfortunate that there is not a single scrap of paper to prove these agreements with your clients and unfortunate that these files don't seem to be in existence?" counsel asked

"I certainly am," said Mr Byrne.

The trial continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of seven men and five women.

hnews@herald.ie

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