Saturday 22 October 2016

Tycoon badly miscalculated in seeking redemption in US

Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30

Sean Dunne
Sean Dunne

SEAN Dunne's latest move in his seemingly endless game of cat and mouse with creditors will have taken many by surprise.

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NAMA in particular has been preparing itself for an almighty battle in the US courts next year with Dunne appearing similarly entrenched.

At stake is whether Dunne can emerge debt free from the bankruptcy process.

NAMA has argued that he shouldn't as he has deliberately misled creditors about his assets. Dunne denies this and seemed willing to fight his corner all the way.

But now he wants to scrap the US case and have the issue sorted out solely in Ireland.

Perhaps he has come to the realisation that he badly miscalculated in seeking bankruptcy in the US in the first place.

The Carlow-born developer filed a voluntary petition there in March last year, at a time he would have been well aware Ulster Bank was seeking to make him bankrupt in Ireland.

Indeed the bank tried on at least 12 occasions to serve him with bankruptcy papers before he headed them off.

The thinking may have been that the bankruptcy regime in the US would be much less punishing than in Ireland. In theory, if everything had gone to plan, Dunne could have emerged with a clean slate in less than a year.

But the gambit has badly backfired as Dunne did not count on the US courts agreeing to allow Ulster Bank seek his bankruptcy in Ireland too. The US bankruptcy process has also proved a lot more bruising than he may have anticipated.

With NAMA and Ulster Bank in hot pursuit, Dunne needed Richard Coan, the US bankruptcy trustee handling his case, to be on his side.

Instead Dunne has only managed to infuriate Coan, who has tried to have him found in contempt of court and has openly raised questions about his marital status.

NAMA has also used the courts to make a series of increasingly serious allegations about Dunne's conduct.

These include claims Dunne committed fraud by giving misleading financial information when he filed for bankruptcy.

This is a very serious allegation to make and if found to have substance could lead to a perjury charge and jail time.

The finances of his wife, former socialite Gayle Killilea, have also come under intense scrutiny, much to her discomfort.

Indeed a judge has openly wondered whether Ms Killilea, who is now busy working as a developer in Connecticut and New York, is actually acting as a puppet for Dunne.

These allegations and the intense scrutiny have been deeply damaging for Dunne and it is unlikely to get much better for him if the US bankruptcy trial now goes ahead against his wishes.

Irish Independent

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