Friday 19 January 2018

Sean Dunne accuses Nama of harassing him in US

Developer hits out over bankrupcy official probe

Developer Sean Dunne
Developer Sean Dunne
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

DEVELOPER Sean Dunne has accused Nama and the official handling his US bankruptcy of trying to force him to violate a High Court order which sets out how he can be questioned on family law proceedings arising from the break-up of his first marriage.

The extraordinary allegation is contained in court documents filed last Friday by Mr Dunne, objecting to efforts by his US bankruptcy trustee, Richard Coan, to bring him before his creditors for a sixth time to answer questions relating to his financial affairs. The motion to which Mr Dunne is now objecting also calls for the production of further documents by him.

The Carlow-born developer's bankruptcy case is due back before the courts in Connecticut tomorrow for a scheduled status conference.

In challenging Mr Coan's request, Mr Dunne claims the trustee is trying to paint him as an "evasive wrongdoer" while also engaging in "ill-conceived gamesmanship", for which the "blame will be shown to squarely lay with Nama". Referring to Mr Coan's motion, Mr Dunne variously alleges that it cites selectively from the transcripts of the five creditor meetings at which he has given evidence, omits mention of or ignores orders given by the High Court in Dublin relating to family law proceedings and claims wrongly that certain documents were not handed over by him.

Taken together, Mr Dunne believes the trustee's claims in relation to his alleged lack of co-operation stem from what he describes as Nama's "harassment" of him.

Highlighting the alleged failure by his biggest creditors to acknowledge the secrecy demanded by the courts here on matters of family law, the developer's lawyers note: "At a hearing on the Motion to Compel, the trustee refused to recognise even the existence of the In Camera Rule. The Irish creditors present, Nama and Ulster Bank, also did not acknowledge the existence of the rule, the design of which was to induce this court unfairly into forming a poor opinion of Mr Dunne."

While Mr Dunne's attorneys do acknowledge the trustee's subsequent support for an application made by Nama to the Irish High Court, seeking relief from the In Camera rule covering his family law case, they are scathing in relation to his conduct after that.

Referring to the order given by Mr Justice Henry Abbott on December 6 last, they say that the redacted information being turned over to Nama and the trustee had only been given on the condition that there would be no public dissemination of it at a meeting of the developer's creditors or any public forum without a further court order.

Notwithstanding that proviso, they note that: "The trustee, contrary to the order of the Irish High Court, attempted to question, and did question Mr Dunne in detail at the next session of the 341 [creditors' meeting] held on December 13, 2013 about matters covered by the In Camera rule."

Highlighting Mr Coan's alleged failure to abide by the High Court order, they cite comments he made at the same creditors' meeting, where he said: "I don't concede that the Irish High Court decision supersedes Mr Dunne's bankruptcy obligations... I don't think I am bound by that ruling."

Elsewhere in their objection, Mr Dunne's lawyers assert that having given evidence at five creditors' meetings, the developer has already submitted to 341 more examinations than any debtor in Connecticut history.

Once again they are critical of the trustee, accusing him of having "largely delegated questioning to Nama", whom they say is "more interested in persecuting and harassing the debtor [Mr Dunne] and playing a game of gotcha than actually investigating his financial affairs".

"Let us not forget that Nama is the same creditor that believes it is a material question whether or not Mr Dunne's wife buys him carrots," the developer's lawyers add.

Defending Mr Dunne's record of co-operation with his bankruptcy officials, they note how he had already testified to over $100m (€73m) of transfers to his wife, Gayle Kililea, at a time when he was "robustly solvent".

Questioning a request by the trustee for Mr Dunne to account for every transfer of $5,000 (€3,700) or more that he had conducted over the past six years, they say this would be "tantamount to asking a debtor who owes $1m (€733,000) for every transfer made by him in the last six years over $5 (€4)".

"It is not material, it is not possible, and it is further evidence of efforts to harass, blacken and burden the debtor," Mr Dunne's lawyers conclude.

Sunday Independent

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