Sunday 20 April 2014

Official in charge of Sean Dunne's bankruptcy 'happy to return' items not belonging to developer's estate, court hears

Gayle Killilea Dunne and Sean Dunne. Photo by Edmund Ross
Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle Killilea Dunne. Photo: Edmund Ross

A COURT-appointed official in charge of developer Sean Dunne's bankruptcy is happy to return any items seized in a raid from a luxury property that do not form part of the now US-based businessman's estate, a judge was told today.

Mr Dunne, who was adjudicated as a bankrupt both in Ireland and in the United States, has brought a legal challenge aimed at recovering documents and other material, believed to include a number of paintings, which were seized last month from a property in Co Kildare by the official administering his bankruptcy, the official assignee Chris Lehane.

The court heard that the items seized include 100 pieces of artwork, golf memorabilia and a framed picture of Lansdowne Road.

In his action, Mr Dunne wants to recover a number of items including documents related to matrimonial proceedings.

Today, when the matter was mentioned in the High Court yesterday, Bill Shipsey SC, for Mr Dunne, said his client required time to respond to a sworn statement furnished to the court on behalf of Mr Lehane.

Counsel said that it was also their intention to cross-examine Mr Lehane on the contents of his affidavit evidence.

Counsel also told the court that security guards at the property, put there by the official assignee, were not required as Mr Dunne was prepared to give an undertaking that nothing would be taken from the property pending the outcome of the proceedings.

Ellen Gleeson BL, who represents a number of parties who had an interest in certain seized items, including Mrs Gayle Dunne; an Isle of Man registered company, Traviata Ltd; and Mr Dunne's son John Dunne, said her clients wanted items belonging to them returned.

The court heard that some of the items seized may be the property of the family of John Dunne's girlfriend.

However she did not want to get involved in the case as she did not want any further intrusion into her privacy.

Mark Sanfey SC, for the official assignee, said his client had no wish to hold on to any assets or documentation relating to assets that do not form part of the bankrupt businessman's estate.

The official assignee is happy to return any items to other parties or items that are not vested in Mr Dunne Snr's estate.

The official assignee, counsel added, is entitled to possession of any assets, which includes documentation, he believes is relevant to the estate in bankruptcy.

Mr Justice John Cooke, who noted that there was a dispute on the facts between the two sides, adjourned the matter to Thursday.

The Judge also suggested that the parties use the time to work out between them what material is relevant to the estate and which items are not.

Mr Dunne launched proceedings against an order granted by Mr Justice Cooke which allowed agents for the official assignee, enter a property in Straffan and seize goods there.

Separately last week, Mr Justice Brian McGovern dismissed Mr Dunne's bid to overturn his Irish bankruptcy.

Mr Dunne, now living in Connecticut sought orders overturning the Irish High Court decision last July adjudicating him bankrupt here.

The Irish bankruptcy proceedings were 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.

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