Saturday 15 December 2018

Dunne was beneficial owner of €58m property, court told

Ulster Bank petitioned to have Sean Dunne (pictured) adjudicated bankrupt here in 2013 by default on €164m of loans. Photo: Collins Courts
Ulster Bank petitioned to have Sean Dunne (pictured) adjudicated bankrupt here in 2013 by default on €164m of loans. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

The official administering Sean Dunne's Irish bankruptcy has told the High Court he believes the bankrupt businessman was the beneficial owner of the Dublin 4 property known as Walford which was purchased in July 2005 for €58m.

Mr Dunne denies being the owner of the property and says it was bought in trust for his wife Gayle Dunne.

At the High Court yesterday the official assignee (OA) in bankruptcy, Chris Lehane, said he does not accept claims the Shrewsbury Road property was owned by Gayle Dunne.

Issues concerning the ownership of Walford are the subject of separate proceedings pending before the courts.

Mr Lehane was giving evidence on the third day of an application to extend Mr Dunne's bankruptcy on grounds he has failed to co-operate with the process after being adjudicated bankrupt in 2013. The businessman denies not co-operating with the OA and opposes the application to extend his bankruptcy. Under cross-examination on sworn statements the OA has provided in support of the extension application by Barra McGrory for Mr Dunne, Mr Lehane said that he never expected the application to extend Mr Dunne's bankruptcy would last as long as it has.

Mr Lehane rejected assertions from counsel that he had not acted with an open mind when conducting interviews with third parties in relation to the Walford property. He also rejected that those questions were put in a certain way during interviews in order to get answers that confirmed his suspicions.

Mr Lehane accepted he should not have told a tax adviser to Mr Dunne, Colm Rogers, that a solicitor acting for Mr Dunne in relation to Walford had told the OA that Mr Dunne was given legal advice in 2005 that Walford could not be purchased in trust. In reply Mr Lehane accepted the solicitor, Patrick Sweetman who was also interviewed by the OA's office in relation to Walford, did not say in the interview that he had given Mr Dunne that particular legal advice concerning the property.

Mr Lehane said "I should not have done it, I was wrong and I apologise". However, he added that what was put to Mr Rogers during the interview about the legal advice was factually correct.

Mr Dunne's Irish bankruptcy was due to expire July 2016 but has been extended pending the outcome of the full hearing concerning whether any extension, which can be for a maximum five years, should be granted.

Ulster Bank petitioned the High Court in 2013 to have Mr Dunne adjudicated bankrupt here by default on €164m of loans. A month later Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in the US.

In 2016, Mr Lehane initiated the bankruptcy extension application due to Mr Dunne's alleged non-cooperation. The application before Ms Justice Caroline Costello continues.

Irish Independent

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