Saturday 1 November 2014

Ulster Bank missed Dunne '12 times'

Published 26/05/2013 | 05:00

Sean and Gayle Dunne
Sean and Gayle Dunne

OFFICIALS acting on behalf of Ulster Bank tried unsuccessfully on "12 different dates" to serve Irish bankruptcy papers on former 'Baron of Ballsbridge' Sean Dunne in the weeks before he declared himself bankrupt in the United States.

The inability of the bank's summons servers to catch up with the Carlow-born developer has proved to be acutely embarrassing for Ulster Bank chiefs, thanks in no small part to the massive publicity his US bankruptcy has attracted since it was first reported in this newspaper on March 31 last.

Having been granted permission by the High Court in Dublin on February 12 to serve papers on Mr Dunne, which would have seen him being brought through the more punitive bankruptcy regime here, Ulster Bank's summons servers were unable on a dozen different days, including consecutive weekends, to catch up with him before he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Connecticut on Friday, March 29 – some six weeks later.

Lawyers for the bank – which lent Mr Dunne hundreds of millions of euro to buy the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels in Ballsbridge – claimed last week the developer had made "extraordinary efforts" to avoid having a bankruptcy summons served on him. The detail of their summons server's efforts is set out in a footnote in their submission to the Connecticut court now dealing with the case.

"Among other things, efforts were made to personally serve the debtor [Mr Dunne] with the documents relating to the bankruptcy proceedings on 12 different dates, which included consecutive weekends," the footnote says.

Clearly conscious of the publicity the Dunne case has been attracting here at home, lawyers for Ulster Bank told the court how "this entire saga, from the development in Dublin through the proceedings in this case, has attracted substantial attention in the Irish media.

"Each pleading in this case, regardless of its inherent substance, garners immediate attention from the Irish press."

Referring specifically to Sean Dunne's announcement of his US bankruptcy in the pages of the Sunday Independent on March 31 last, they say: "In fact the debtor has penned his own missive to the Irish people that was published by Independent Newspapers Ltd in the form of an open letter."

Lawyers for the bank further claimed that Mr Dunne said that he "considered his debts to his lenders fully paid because he had paid his taxes" and "essentially admitted" that he had moved to the United States to avoid his Irish creditors.

A cursory examination of the article shows, however, that the developer expressed his belief that his debt to the "Irish State" as opposed to his "Irish lenders" was clear, based on the contribution made by his business to the exchequer over a 25-year period.

"I have paid close on €100m in personal taxes to the Irish State, outside of company taxes and the substantial levies. I estimate that I employed over 200 people annually over a 25-year period in the Irish economy and contributed €250m to the Irish Exchequer. Therefore, I am personally happy that my debt to the Irish State is clear," Mr Dunne said.

On his decision to declare bankruptcy in the United States meanwhile, Mr Dunne insisted he had not planned it, saying: "I had not planned on filing for bankruptcy. I did not see much point as I have no assets left to distribute among the banks I owe money to. Ulster Bank forced me into this position by applying to make me bankrupt in Ireland."

Ulster Bank's motion for a stay to be imposed on Mr Dunne's US bankruptcy proceedings is due to come before the Connecticut court on June 4.

The bank is seeking the stay as part of its effort to bring parallel bankruptcy proceedings against the developer here in Ireland.

While such a move would be possible, it has already been described by a leading Dublin-based insolvency practitioner as "lacking in commercial sense".

Irish Independent

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