independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Sean Dunne begins legal bid to get seized paintings back

Sean Dunne
Sean Dunne

BANKRUPT developer Sean Dunne has initiated a legal challenge aimed at recovering documents and other material, believed to include a number of paintings, which were seized last week from a luxury property in Co Kildare.

Among the possessions Mr Dunne wants to recover are documents related to matrimonial proceedings, Mr Justice John Cooke was told at the High Court yesterday by the businessman's counsel, Bill Shipsey SC.

Ellen Gleeson BL said she was representing a number of parties who had an interest in the property which was seized by the court-appointed official administering the bankruptcy.

They include his wife Gayle; an Isle of Man registered company, Traviata Ltd; and a girlfriend of John Dunne, son of Mr Dunne.

The application arises from an ex parte order (one side only represented) made at an in a private court hearing last week.

That order, made by Mr Justice Cooke,  allowed agents for the official assignee in bankruptcy, Chris Lehane, enter a property in Straffan and seize goods there.

The order was made under a provision of the Bankruptcy Act allowing for a search and seizure warrant to be issued where the official assignee has reason to believe that property of a bankrupt may be located in a house or other property which may not be owned by the bankrupt themselves.

Mr Shipsey said Mr Dunne wanted liberty to serve short notice on the official assignee of the proceedings over the contents seizure.

Mr Justice Cooke said he would grant that liberty and returned the matter to Monday next.

Separately, Mr Justice Brian McGovern is expected to rule later this week on Mr Dunne's bid to overturn his Irish bankruptcy.  Ulster Bank and the NAMA have opposed that application.

Mr Dunne, now living in Connecticut, wants orders overturning a decision of the Irish High Court 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.

Mr Dunne contends there is no legal basis under which the Official Assignee in bankruptcy here can  agree a protocol with a US trustee in bankruptcy allowing bankruptcies proceed in both jurisdictions.

The 59-year-old businessman insists he is domiciled in the US, not Ireland, and claims he expects to remain in the US and to work there into his seventies.

Ulster Bank has disputed Mr Dunne's claims he has abandoned Ireland in favour of the US and argued there was no certainty about Mr Dunne's continued residency in the US beyond the term of his non-immigrant E-2 treaty investor visa.

The bank also claimed Mr Dunne continues to have business and property interests here and retains joint ownership with his second wife Gayle Dunne of their former family home at Shrewsbury Road, Dublin.

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