Monday 24 October 2016

Wife of Sean Dunne wants to halt 'oppressive' legal action against her

Alleged transactions between Mr Dunne and Gayle Killilea Dunne under question

Published 15/06/2015 | 18:58

Gayle Killilea and husband Sean Dunne
Gayle Killilea and husband Sean Dunne

THE wife of bankrupt developer Sean Dunne wants to halt what she says is "oppressive" legal action against her.

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The proceedings have been brought against Gayle Killilea Dunne  in the Commercial Court over alleged invalid transfers to her of various assets of her husband, including a hotel in South Africa valued at more than €18m.

Chris Lehane, the official administering Mr Dunne's Irish bankruptcy, previously said he remains unclear of the value of certain alleged transactions between Mr Dunne and Gayle Killilea Dunne but it appeared these involved "tens of millions of Euro in total".

Ms Dunne, with an address at Greenwich, Connecticut, in seeking to halt the proceedings brought here by Mr Lehane against her, argues she does not have "limitless" assets.

Her being subject to proceedings here and the US creates "real potential" any assets sought to be recovered risked being depleted which was not in the interests of her husband's creditors, she claims.

Mr Lehane and the Bankruptcy Trustee dealing with Mr Dunne's bankruptcy in the US are trying to divide proceedings in two jurisdictions based on location of assets owned by herself rather than location of the alleged transfers from her husband to herself, she says.

This meant, if money or property was transferred to her in Ireland in 2007, and later used to buy property in the US afer she moved there in 2010, the same money or property will be part of the Irish and US proceedings, she argues.

The "artificial separation" of the Irish and US proceedings is "wholly unreasonable and oppressive to me", she claims. She also claims the irish proceedings violate the terms of a stay granted by the US courts.

Her counsel Alan Doherty SC told the court Monday (June 15) the sides had agreed to adjourn the application to halt the case to allow a further affidavit be filed. Mr Justice Brian McGovern adjourned it for further mention later this month. Mr Lehane's proceedings relate to two alleged agreements between Sean Dunne and his wife.

The first, dated March 2005, provided Gayle Dunne was to get, for the benefit of herself and the couple's children, 70 per cent of the profits accruing from the sale of various properties, including the Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town,South Africa.

The agreement stated the hotel was owned by Mountbrook Homes Ltd, now Mavior, and that Mr Dunne was also transferring to his wife a €4m debt owed to him by Mountbrook.

The agreement also related to properties at Woodtown, Rathfarnham; IGB Clonskeagh; residential lands at Charlesland, Co Wicklow; lands at Malahide, Co Dublin; and Rivertree (Numbers 1 and 3 Shrewsbury Road, Dublin).

 Mr Lehane claims the alleged agreement has no legal status.

 He claims some transactions envisaged in that alleged agreement did not take place.

 He also claims that on February 15, 2008, in another alleged agreement,  Mr Dunne purported to transfer his "interest" in the Lagoon Beach Hotel to his wife, along with the full book value of all loans made by him to Mountbrook and all of its associated companies and subsidiaries.

The open market value of those was some €1.95m, the agreement stated.

In her defence, Ms Dunne says she is legally married to, and is the employer of, Mr Dunne, has been a US resident since 2010 and divides her home between the US and UK where she has business interests. Prior to getting married, the couple had agreed, if she married Mr Dunne and started a family with him, he would immediately transfer a portion of his wealth to her, the defence states.

It states agreements were reached between herself and Mr Dunne in March 2005 and in 2008 and a formal share transfer took place in October 2008.  It is denied Mr Dunne purported to transfer assets or profits to her as alleged by Mr Lehane.

The defence pleads Ms Dunne entered the agreements for good faith reasons including prioritising family life and Mr Dunne's career over her own career as a journalist and prospective career as a lawyer.

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