A businessman has been unanimously convicted of an international property scam.
The Belfast Crown Court jury of seven men and five women deliberated for just over five hours over the last two days before finding 52-year-old Kevin O'Kane unanimously guilty of 25 charges of obtaining money and property by deception.
O'Kane, an oil and coal merchant from Ballyneese Road in Portglenone, was unanimously acquitted of two similar charges, as well as one count of using a false instrument — namely a set of fake property deeds.
As the jury foreman repeated guilty after guilty, O'Kane remained impassive in the dock.
Since the trial began almost three months ago on September 16, the court heard that O'Kane duped seven people into thinking they were buying luxury villas in the sunshine resort of Gumbet in Turkey, and that in total they handed over half-a-million pounds between them.
O'Kane claimed in numerous meetings in Northern Ireland and also on site visits to Golden Beach Villas that he was the landowner and developer. But as one victim told the court, O'Kane “didn't own even a blade of grass”.
The fraudster gave evidence on his own behalf, claiming he had been the victim of a con by his business partner back in Turkey, Kubilay Atmaca, and that the people accusing him were committing perjury out of vindictiveness and spite.
O'Kane said he “did trust Kubilay” and that “nobody had a bad word to say about” him. But O'Kane said that he now realised Atmaca “wasn't straight with me looking back on it. He wasn’t straight with me, he was conning me, if you like, about what he had told me”.
Yesterday, however, trial judge Mr Justice McLaughlin told O'Kane, for whom there is an outstanding arrest warrent in Turkey, “there's only one person to blame and that is Kevin O'Kane — no-one else”.
With his victims sitting just feet away, the judge asked O'Kane: “Can you turn around to all those people and look them in the eye? The answer, of course, is that you can't. There is only one liar in the courtroom, and I'm afraid it's you.”
Despite Crown objections to O'Kane being released on bail, Mr Justice McLaughlin granted him bail to come back to court on Monday, but strongly advised him: “Go home and spend a weekend with your wife and think what you have done. You know a good bit more about what was going on out there and about what Kubilay Atmaca was up to.”