Thursday 27 April 2017

€12m payment was for benefit of Sean Dunne over house sale, claims bankruptcy trustee

Walford on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road Photo: Gerry Mooney
Walford on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road Photo: Gerry Mooney
Developer Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle Killilea Photo: Edmund Ross
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A bankruptcy trustee has alleged a €12m payment by a mysterious Cypriot company to a bank account controlled by a Swiss law firm was for the benefit of Sean Dunne and his wife.

The cash is alleged to be proceeds from the sale of Walford, Ireland's most expensive home, to a trust linked to billionaire financier Dermot Desmond.

Mr Dunne has always denied having a beneficial interest in the now derelict and vacant property on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road. He claimed he gifted his wife, former socialite and gossip columnist Gayle Killilea, €58m to buy the house in 2005.

The property was sold to a Cyprus-registered company, Yesreb Holdings, in 2013, which in turn sold it on to Mr Desmond's Merdon Trust last December.

However, in an affidavit lodged with the High Court, the official assignee in bankruptcy, Christopher Lehane, has alleged Mr Dunne was the beneficial owner all along, up until the sale to the Desmond trust, and that the property should have been part of the Mr Dunne's bankruptcy estate.

It references an email from a Dublin accountant acting on behalf of Yesreb to a solicitor who has acted for Mr Dunne in the past. This email stated that €12m was to be deposited with Zurich law firm Lenz & Staehlin. It also referred to a number of smaller payments which were to be made to companies linked to Yesreb.

"It is my view that it is reasonable to infer that the Dunnes or their offshore companies are in receipt of €12m," the affidavit said.

The developer filed for bankruptcy in the US in 2013 with debts of around €700m and was also adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland the same year.

Since then, he has been dogged by accusations, which he denies, that he used various methods to fraudulently transfer assets to his wife.

The official assignee recently secured an interim order preventing Ms Killilea from reducing her assets below €50m and is seeking to undo several transfers.

In the court papers, Mr Lehane said he wanted the High Court to require Mr Dunne to disclose under oath his involvement and that of his wife with Yesreb and who the beneficial owners of the company are.

He said he also wanted Mr Dunne to disclose under oath all contact he has had with Lenz & Staehlin and three companies linked to Yesreb.

Mr Lehane said he also wanted to know what contact an accountant had with those parties. He also said he was applying to the court to extend Mr Dunne's period of bankruptcy so he could investigate the matter further.

In the affidavit, Mr Lehane said he was advised by a source last November that Walford was for sale and that Mr Dunne was "personally involved in the sale".

A proposed purchaser confirmed he had dealt with Mr Dunne. He said Mr Dunne emphasised repeatedly he did not own Walford, but he was able to put the proposed purchaser in contact Yesreb's lawyers.

Irish Independent

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