herald

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Partner had 007 lifestyle, Byrne tells €52m trial

FORMER solicitor Thomas Byrne has alleged at his €52m theft and fraud trial that his business partner's lifestyle was out of a James Bond movie.

During cross-examination, Mr Byrne also said that some banks knew he was using invalid collateral when they granted him loans.

He alleged that the financial institutions were either aware or did not care that the properties he used as collateral had been already been promised to other banks.

Mr Byrne (47), of Walkinstown Road, Crumlin, is accused of theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8m.

The charges allege he transferred clients' homes into his name and then used them as collateral for property loans.

DURESS

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 said that every loan he is accused of taking out was for the benefit of his business partner and client John Kelly. The accused said he was acting under duress when he took out the loans.

He said that Mr Kelly forced him to take out loans on his behalf because the banks would not lend him anymore money.

The accused also said he had to fund Mr Kelly's lifestyle which included collecting Aston Martin cars. Mr Byrne said Mr Kelly was a James Bond fan and owned several Aston Martins from the films. He said his yacht, which was moored in Spain before being repossessed, was christened "Thunderball".

"007 Kelly," defence counsel Damien Colgan SC commented.

Mr Byrne said that at one stage in 2007 he was transferring between €450,000 and €500,000 a week into Mr Kelly's account to fund his day-to-day living.

The former solicitor said he kept none of the €51.2m borrowings. He said he was living in his car for four months after his practice was shut down by the Law Society.

Mr Byrne repeatedly questioned why the prosecution did not call certain banks' officials and lawyers involved in the loans to give evidence.

He said that these people might not exonerate him but would be able to tell the truth about what happened.

When prosecuting counsel Remy Farrell SC suggested he could have called these witnesses himself, Mr Byrne replied: "It's up to you to prove my guilt; it's not up to me to prove my innocence."

PROPERTIES

Mr Byrne insisted he had been honest in his evidence and told the prosecution: "I know you're only interested in a verdict but I'm interested in the truth."

The trial will continue today with the rest of Mr Byrne's cross-examination before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of seven men and five women.

hnews@herald.ie

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