A SOLICITOR whose firm once provided legal services to former tánaiste Mary Harney is at the centre of an inquiry into the whereabouts of €900,000 missing from client accounts.
As well as allegedly misappropriating the money to pay debts, revenue fees and his own professional indemnity insurance, Declan J McEvoy is also alleged to have remortgaged his mother’s house in Castleknock, Co. Dublin.
The High Court yesterday also heard that the solicitor’s sister has lodged a claim for compensation from the Law Society-run Solicitor’s Compensation Fund.
This is in relation to the house in Castleknock, the proceeds of the sale of which he is alleged to have held on to.
Sitting at the back of the court for yesterday’s 30-minute hearing, Mr McEvoy took copious notes but did not give evidence in the case, which was brought after the Law Society investigated two practices – William Early at 1 Haymarket, Carlow, and JM McEvoy & Co on The Avenue, Gorey, Co. Wexford.
Paul Anthony McDermott, acting for the Law Society, told the High Court yesterday that both the reports led the Law Society to ‘have the opinion that (McEvoy) is guilty of dishonesty’.
He said that one investigation by a forensic accountant in July 2011 discovered a deficit in the client account of the William Early practice of €501,872.
On the same date, a deficit of €133,298 was found in the client account of JM McEvoy & Co. in Gorey, which had previously been owned by his father.
The court heard that Mr McEvoy, through the William Early firm, acted for his mother Angela McEvoy and his sister Claire Swords in relation to the sale of a house they owned in Castleknock.
Despite not owning the house, Mr McEvoy obtained a €297,500 mortgage that Mr McDermott said ‘may not have been registered’.
The house was subsequently sold for €303,000 and the proceeds of that sale were credited to the solicitor’s own account.
A Law Society investigation concluded that Mr McEvoy’s actions had the effect of increasing the client account deficit by at least another €297,000, leaving a total of €900,000 missing.
In addition, Mrs Swords submitted a claim to the Solicitor’s Compensation fund for her 50 per cent share of the proceeds of the sale.
Mr McDermott said: ‘There is a particular problem about the house and… concern over historic transactions.’
He said that in the William Early practice, an initial analysis showed that it did not look as if he was entitled to all the legal expenses he had deposited there.
Payments were made to third parties ‘who may not have been entitled to receive them’, and payments were also lodged in accounts with little evidence as to what the payments actually related to.
Mr McDermott added: ‘Monies were misappropriated. Some money went to pay revenue debts. One (payment) went to pay his professional indemnity insurance and to pay the (JM McEvoy & Co) practice’s bank overdraft. This was dishonesty and the money was used for wrong purposes.’ He also said that it was to Mr McEvoy’s credit that he ‘fully acknowledges clients’ money has gone missing’.
Judge Peter Charleton suspended McEvoy from practising as a solicitor. Afterwards, when approached, Mr McEvoy said: ‘I have no comment to make whatsoever.’ The case has been adjourned until a date in October.
Mr McEvoy’s directorships include the State-funded special needs facility of St Aidan’s Day Care Centre Ltd in Gorey. As well as being an unpaid director of the company, his firm JM McEvoy is listed as the company’s solicitors.
Before he bought the firm from his father, JM McEvoy & Co. was used by Mary Harney in 2001, although no details were provided about the firm’s work for the former tánaiste.