Do you know Michael Lynn? If so ring +35387 919 9113 or email neil.michael @ randomirish.com.
MICHAEL Lynn – the solicitor at the centre of a Law Society investigation – was last night facing a criminal inquiry as hundreds of small investors have started legal moves t0recover money they claim he owes.
A staggering 100 summonses have either been issued or are being drafted. This figure is set to more than double and there might even be a class action taken out against him.
Those summonses that haven’t already been delivered will be presented to the 39-year-old when he appears in the High Court tomorrow in his on-going dispute with the Law Society. More were due to be served on him at a scheduled meeting with bankers on Friday, but he failed to turn up.
According to a senior bank official last night, gardai detectives have been contacted and ‘it is just a matter of time’ before they interview Lynn. The approach to the Gardai was initiated by investors concerned about investments they made in foreign property schemes set up by Lynn – and promoted, in all innocence, by high-profile sports stars like rugby international Victor Costello and soccer icon Ray Houghton.
Mayo footballer Willie Joe Padden was involved very briefly two years in a firm that was set up to market Lynn’s business in the west of Ireland but Padden resigned his directorship about six months later. He is currently taking legal action to ensure details of his resignation are now recorded on company records.
Private investors’ decision to involve Gardai came after it emerged two weeks ago that high street banks were attempting to recover €26.3m he is said to have borrowed from them since January.
Some of the 105 properties he or his property companies own in Ireland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, Portugal, and China are believed to be mortgaged two or three times over.
The Irish Mail on Sunday has learned that one of the banks involved is owed ‘substantially more’ than the €5.5m figure the Irish Nationwide Building Society is owed. In the past week alone, at least 20 summonses have been sent by recorded delivery to the south Dublin house in Sandymount Lynn left last Thursday week.
And a steady stream of solicitors and summons servers have also been attempting to serve summonses at Glenlion house, which he recently bought near ex-presenter Gay Byrne in Howth for around €5m. The secluded three-bedroom property, which is reached by a steep and long winding tree-lined driveway, boasts a classical Roman garden modelled on the ruins of Pompeii.
One of the summons servers who visited it recently said last night: ‘We’ve given up trying to serve him with papers, but we are no longer bothered. We are only legally obliged to try three times at the various addresses we have for him. After that, our job is effectively done. The next time we see this man will be in court.’
Last night, the Howth and Sandymount premises were deserted with bemused neighbours at both saying they have not seen either Lynn or his 34-year-old wife Brid ‘for weeks’.
The Mayo-born solicitor – who was spotted dining out in The Shelbourne Hotel a few days ago – is instead believed to be staying at the palatial five-star €335-a-night Ritz Carlton Powerscourt Hotel in Co Wicklow. Representatives from at least two financial institutions have also hired private detectives to monitor Lynn’s movements.
They stepped up their action to find him after he failed to attend a scheduled meeting in Dublin on Friday with the banks involved. One bank official said last night that Lynn – whose Kendar Holdings property company operated from offices adjoining his legal practice – told him he was unable to attend because he was ‘seeing his financial adviser’.
This is believed to be a partner at Dublin accountants O’Donovan Stewart. In addition to taking them on, Lynn has also employed the services of PJ Walsh & Co solicitors’ boss Sean Sexton. He has now replaced Giles Kennedy in his dealings with the Law Society.
She is said by family friends to be ‘utterly devastated’ by the multiple-mortgage claims against her son. They emerged after a Law Society investigation ‘disclosed acts of dishonesty on the part of the solicitor in relation to clients’ monies’.
It successfully secured a High Court order freezing Lynn’s assets ‘in order to protect clients and clients’ monies and to prevent any further misappropriation.’ An accountant the organisation hired concluded after five days in September that Lynn’s accounts at his Dublin city centre legal firm were ‘totally unreliable’ and that it was ‘impossible’ to assess their accuracy.
It was also claimed that there was a ‘free flow’ of money from his legal firm’s clients bank account and his Kendar Holdings company. The exact scale of the situation is still not known but it is believed to involve more than 100 properties either he or one of his firms – like Proper T Capel – owns. Between 40 and 50 of them are based abroad, in Slovakia, Bulgaria, China, Spain, Portugal and Dubai.
However, a tally of the properties for sale through his Kendar Global website shows he has more than 1,000 properties on his books, with an estimated value of €100m. He is due in the High Court on tomorrow and is expected to be served with a string of summonses when he turns up.
Indeed, some of those waiting to greet him when he arrives are expected to be the various people who called Joe Duffy’s Liveline show on RTE Radio 1, complaining bitterly about their dealings Lynn’s companies. Just one rang in to support him, saying: ‘The guy isn’t a crook. He’s straight. He probably went in over the top and lost himself in the Celtic Tiger.’
However, there is no such charity for the man on the Rate-Your-Solicitor.com website.
It has carried a series of claims about Lynn since September 4, 2006. Paul Hayes, one of the ten contributors who gave him the lowest possible ‘AVOID’ rating said in September 15 last year that Lynn’s property dealings ‘are a disgrace’.
The trouble he is embroiled in is a world away from Lynn’s humble beginnings near Loch Conn on the outskirts of Crossmolina, the small Mayo town where he grew up and where the family name is a well-respected one. His late father Hugh Gerard, who died in the late 1990s, farmed the family’s 100-acre holding near the picturesque loch until his 43-year-old son Hugh Francis – Lynn’s older brother – took over.
Said one of Hugh Gerard’s former farm labourers: ‘He was a great man who was highly-regarded by everyone. He worked very hard and never borrowed a penny in his life. Everything he had, he worked hard for.’
An uncle of Lynn’s was the Right Reverend Monsignor Francis Vincent Lynn, a former local teacher and school principle who died in 2005. As well as Hugh Gerard – who teaches locally as well as running the farm – Lynn has two sisters Anne and Teresa, who live in Dublin. He schooled locally at Gortner Abbey and counted former Eurovision singer Marc Roberts as one of his closest friends.
Said one family friend: ‘They were really close friends, mainly because of their love of music. ‘Although Michael was a good sportsman and loved his Gaelic football, I think both of them dreamed of becoming pop stars in the future. Marc loved to sing and Michael played the keyboards. They even used to perform at local weddings.’
In 1987, Lynn got accepted to study law at Trinity College Dublin. One of his 65 classmates last night recalled: ‘I’ve since heard that he is very much the life and soul of any party but when I knew him at Trinity, he well liked but didn’t stand-out in any big way. He was just a decent bloke, very bright and tended to be popular with all the various groupings of people within the class.’
Three years after graduating in 1991, he qualified as a solicitor and worked for Budget Travel for a period before setting up his own practice.
The former classmate added: ‘I was never in any doubt he would qualify as a solicitor but I was amazed how quickly he set up his own practice.’
The practice, which was based in Blanchardstown for more than six years, moved to Dublin’s city centre earlier this year. An employee at the Spar next door to the Blanchardstown office last night described Lynn as ‘Mr Ordinary’.
She said: ‘He was always very friendly and cheerful. I would also describe him as very ordinary. We are all in shock about what has happened because it just wasn’t something we would ever imagine him to be associated with.’
She also added that he was working as her solicitor until recently and was ‘no longer sure’ if he would still be working for her anymore. A stylist at nearby L’Avenue hair salon – where Lynn was a regular – said: ‘We are all very much in shock. We just can’t believe what we are hearing. He was just a regular guy, decent enough and we are all in shock. We just can’t take it in.’
It is not clear how long they have been engaged, but Lynn married fiancée Brid Murphy – whose mother died of cancer when she was quite young – in Tulla’s Catholic church in Co Clare on Saturday, April 8, 2006. The wedding was celebrated at Dromoland Castle about 20 miles away. Lynn went to great efforts to invite as many people from his childhood as possible, including labourers who used to work on his father’s farm and even the parents of friends he had hardly spoken to for years.
Marc Roberts’ parents, for example, were invited but they didn’t attend. A family friend said last night: ‘Marc and Michael used to get on really well but they just grew apart and have hardly spoken since Marc took part in the Eurovision. Michael turns up to the odd gig but they exchange little more than polite pleasantries. He invited Michael and his parents to his wedding but as far as I know they didn’t go.’
A former farm labourer, who used to work with Lynn’s father, was also unable to attend but, he recalled: ‘My mother was very ill at the time, so I couldn’t go. But when Michael found out how sick she was, he made a point of coming over to see me and look in on my mum. He needn’t have bothered but I was very touched that he took the time to visit us.’