independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Sean Dunne fails to get court orders preventing sale of assets

Sean Dunne
Sean Dunne

Developer Sean Dunne is appealing the High Court's decision to allow his bankruptcy go ahead in Ireland.

And he failed today to get court orders preventing the sale of his assets for the benefit of his creditors, including NAMA.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern also refused Mr Dunne's request to direct the Official Assignee to provide assurances Mr Dunne would not be arrested here as an absconding bankrupt but noted the Assignee cannot procure any arrest without a court order and regarded any such step as "a last resort".

In refusing to restrain the Assignee concerning any such application, the judge said he understood the Assignee's concern that Mr Dunne should not be allowed "set the agenda" in relation to how his bankruptcy is administered here.

The Assignee, Chris Lehane, had complained Mr Dunne is "ignoring" his Irish bankruptcy and has not attended for interview with Mr Lehane or provided a statement of affairs. Mr Dunne had argued he was awaiting the outcome of his legal challenge to his Irish bankruptcy and his lawyers indicated today he would provide materials sought.

Earlier today, the judge refused a stay on Mr Lehane taking further steps to realise Mr Dunne's estate pending the businessman's  Supreme Court appeal against the judge's refusal last week to set aside Mr Dunne's Irish bankruptcy.

The Irish bankruptcy was initiated by Ulster Bank in February over default on loans for some €161m issued to buy properties in Dublin. Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in the US the following month when he claimed to have debts of $1bn and assets of $55m.

Following a later application by Ulster Bank, the US court appointed trustee managing Mr Dunne's US bankruptcy ruled parallel proceedings would benefit Mr Dunne's creditors as the vast majority of his properties are in Ireland.

Arising from the refusal to set aside the Irish bankruptcy, Bill Shipsey SC, for Mr Dunne, today sought a stay, which would effectively restrain further steps in the Irish bankruptcy, pending the Supreme Court appeal.

Mr Shipsey argued there would be no prejudice to creditors from such a stay because most of Mr Dunne's assets here are subject to receiverships and his former family home at Shrewsbury Road was rented to the South African embassy and was also subject to a charge to Bank of Scotland. 

Mr Dunne had an apprehension a view could be taken he would be seen as an asbconding bankrupt and provisions of the Bankruptcy Act allowing for arrest of an absconding bankruypt could be used against him when he came here to visit his mother and daughter, counsel said. In those circumstances, he wanted an undertaking from the Assignee there would be no move to arrest him.

Lyndon Mac Cann SC, for Ulster Bank, opposed any stay, arguing no such stay was ever granted by the courts here. Ulster Bank and NAMA, as Mr Dunne's creditors, had the greatest stake in this matter and opposed any stay, he said. Counsel also suggested the absconding debtor arrest concern was "a red herring".

Mark Sanfey SC, for the Assignee, agreed and said any arrest as an absconding debtor was a "last resort". 

Counsel said the Assignee had complained Mr Dunne was ignoring his Irish bankruptcy, had not attended for interview with the Assignee and had not yielded up assets. The Assignee needed to investigate Mr Dunne's estate here and in that regard needed to interview Mr Dunne and needed a statement of affairs from him. 

Now that the court had dismissed Mr Dunne's challenge to the Irish bankruptcy, he should co-operate, make himself available for interview by Mr Lehane and provide a statement of his assets and liabilities, counsel said.

Mr Shipsey said he believed an arrangement might be reached where the documents could be provided.  In relation to the interview, he said Mr Dunne was based in Connecticut and it was unclear if he would be back in Ireland before the new year.  A telephone interview might be an option, cousnel suggested.

In his decision, the judge said there was no basis for a stay, he was also refusing it in light of the continuing US bankruptcy process and  Mr Dunne would have to pursue that matter with the Supreme Court.

He also refused to require the Assignee undertake Mr Dunne would not be arrested and suggested the sides could engage with a view to making available to the Assignee the statement of affairs and other documents filed by Mr Dunne for his US bankruptcy.

Separately today, Mr Justice John Cooke adjourned to the new year proceedings by Mr Dunne, his wife Gayle Killilea Dunne, son John Dunne and a Isle of Man company, Traviata Ltd, aimed at recovering property seized from a luxury house in Co Kildare by agents of the Assignee last month on foot of a court order.

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