independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Sean Dunne sent bankruptcy all-clear in 'error'

Sean Dunne and Gayle Killilea. Dunne says he intends to rebuild his career
Sean Dunne and Gayle Killilea. Dunne says he intends to rebuild his career

HE may have had his bid to overturn his Irish bankruptcy rejected by the High Court last Friday, but just two days earlier developer Sean Dunne could have been forgiven for thinking he had already secured a clean bill of financial health in the United States.

The Sunday Independent can reveal that the former 'Baron of Ballsbridge' was just one of a number of individuals who received an automatic notification from the bankruptcy courts in Connecticut last Wednesday, informing them that they had just been discharged from bankruptcy.

Contacted and asked to confirm Mr Dunne's exit from the process, however, an official at the Bridgeport division of the Connecticut bankruptcy court explained that a "glitch" in their computer system had resulted in a "number of individuals [including Mr Dunne] receiving "erroneous discharge notifications".

"They're not out of the woods yet," the official added.

While the error will no doubt have caused some disappointment to the Carlow-born developer, this newspaper understands that he remains undeterred in his bid to emerge from bankruptcy in the United States with a view to rebuilding his career.

It is expected that Mr Dunne will appeal last Friday's ruling by Mr Justice Brian McGovern, in which he rejected the developer's bid to overturn parallel Irish bankruptcy proceedings brought by Ulster Bank.

The bank first brought its application last February over Mr Dunne's default on loans for some €161m, which were issued during the boom. Just weeks later, on March 29, Mr Dunne took matters into his own hands, however, when he filed for bankruptcy in the United States.

Explaining his decision in an article published in the Sunday Independent two days later, the developer said: "Ulster Bank forced me into this position by applying to make me bankrupt in Ireland. Regrettably, I do not live in Ireland any more.

"I was forced and indeed advised to take matters into my own hands in the USA, where I reside and work, where my family lives, contrary to what Ulster Bank claimed when they made their application in the High Court."

In his ruling last Friday, Mr Justice McGovern rejected arguments by Mr Dunne that his Irish bankruptcy should be set aside on the basis that he is domiciled in the US.

Details contained in last Friday's judgment reveal how those serving the Ulster Bank summons tried and failed to serve the Irish bankruptcy proceedings on Mr Dunne on nine occasions between March 6 last and March 29, the date on which the developer filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut.

The papers were ultimately served by way of substituted service on his lawyers in the US last July.

Mr Dunne was adjudicated a bankrupt in Ireland in the same month.

The bankruptcy declaration here formed part of parallel applications to have Mr Dunne adjudicated a bankrupt in both America and Ireland.

Following an application by Ulster Bank, supported by Nama, the US court-appointed trustee managing Mr Dunne's US bankruptcy ruled that parallel proceedings would benefit the developer's creditors as the vast majority of his properties are in Ireland. Mr Dunne claims to have debts of some €1bn and assets of €55m.

Ronald Quinlan Special Correspondent

Sunday Independent

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