'High-flyer' convicted of u121,000 fraud

A HIGH-FLYING Irish solicitor is being held in Dublin's Mountjoy prison awaiting sentence for fraud.

Elio Malocco once mixed with Dublin's social elite and drove a Mercedes 230, with two Porsches in the family garage. He even attempted to buy a League of Ireland football club.

But after a two-week trial in the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin last month he was convicted of defrauding the Irish Press newspaper group, for which he worked as a libel lawyer, of a total of u121,000.

The court heard he had failed to pass on cheques issued by the company in settlement of libel actions, diverting money to his own accounts instead.

Forged documents, including bogus bank receipts, were issued to the company, in the pretence that the payments had been made.

The discovery of the fraud came as a great shock to the chair of Irish Press Newspapers, Dr Eamon de Valera, grandson of the late president de Valera, founder of the company.

Dr de Valera had personally appointed Malocco to the newspaper group's board and made him the company's libel lawyer. In addition, Malocco is married to Jane de Valera, a cousin of the chair, although they are now estranged.

When the fraud was uncovered four years ago, Malocco fled to the US. It was then discovered that he had left behind claims for up to u2 million for former clients – the largest liability that the Incorporated Law Society has had to tackle for one solicitor.

Some 50 separate claims are said to have been involved, with the Irish Press group's claim on the Law Society estimated at u600,000.

Malocco returned voluntarily from the US two years ago and surrendered to the Fraud Squad. He has now been remanded in custody until 15 May, when sentence will be imposed. A probation report is being prepared for the court.

Malocco made the headlines in Britain in the late 1980s when he represented Father Patrick Ryan, the priest wanted in Britain over IRA arms charges.