Breifne O'Brien accused of Ponzi-type fraud in court

A court has heard businessman Breifne O'Brien defrauded friends and associates out of millions of euro in a Ponzi scheme.

The 52-year-old with an address at Monkstown Grove, Co Dublin faces up to ten years in prison for 14 theft and deception charges dating from 2003 to 2008.

Breifne O'Brien's victims were not anonymous investors – some were associates others like Louis Dowley and Daniel Maher were friends since his Trinity College days whose trust in the businessman cost them millions in bogus property, shipping and insurance deals here and in places like Paris and Hamburg.

O'Brien's was a straightforward confidence trick . He would ask a person for money insisting that at all times remain it would remain in a deposit account and that its only purpose was to show he had the financial clout to buy an option on a property or some other deal, which he would then "flip" on for profit.

But the court heard it was a lie - a paper trail gardaí followed shows the money was used for a myriad of purposes including an extension to his house, stamp duty and a car for his wife.

Some of the money went to pay back other investors in order to retain their trust– a classic characteristic of a Ponzi scheme.

His lawyers say his fall from grace was "punished" in the media which treated him as the poster boy for the worst excesses of the Celtic Tiger.

They say he has been left divorced shunned and destitute, living off €188 a week.

He will be sentenced on October 8.

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