Sunday, October 28, 2007

Runaway lawyer was used by criminals to launder drug money

THE solicitor who disappeared owing more than €36m to banks was under investigation by gardai for allegedly arranging finance for Dublin criminals.

Thomas Byrne, whose Walkinstown practice was shut by the Law Society last Monday, was suspected of applying for multiple loans on behalf of several suspected gangland figures in south and west Dublin.

A Garda report on Mr Byrne's activities was prepared by detectives more than six months ago. The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) separately began making inquiries about him in recent months. His name cropped up during their investigations into several criminals, who were targeted by the bureau as part of the clampdown on gangland crime.

Garda sources said that Mr Byrne, 41, was suspected of arranging finance for some suspect clients, drawing down several loans from different financial institutions secured on the same property.

Mr Byrne has been missing since his practice was shut down, with debts of €36m established so far. "Gardai were making inquiries about him," a garda source confirmed this weekend.

There were growing fears for his safety this weekend. The activities of his more dubious clients may now be exposed as a result of the collapse of his business.

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