Sunday 20 January 2019

Walford court setback for official assignee to Sean Dunne estate

Developer: Sean Dunne was declared bankrupt in the US and Ireland in 2013 and remains bankrupt
Developer: Sean Dunne was declared bankrupt in the US and Ireland in 2013 and remains bankrupt
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

A key piece of evidence collected by the official assignee of the estate of bankrupt developer Sean Dunne in relation to the €58m sale of a house on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road must be disclosed to a Cypriot company that purported to once own the property, and a trust connected with billionaire financier Dermot Desmond, the High Court has ruled.

In 2014, the official assignee to the Sean Dunne estate, Chris Lehane, conducted an interview with Caroline Crowley - one of the vendors of the Shewsbury Road house, called Walford - in a private meeting. Ms Crowley acted as an executor in the sale.

Mr Lehane claimed privilege over the transcript of that interview, insisting that at the time he was contemplating possible litigation in respect of the ownership of Walford.

But the High Court has ruled that such privilege cannot be claimed. It has also ruled that a number of emails between Mr Dunne and Mr Desmond must be disclosed to the official assignee.

Walford was the most expensive residential property ever in Ireland, when it was sold in 2005 for almost €58m. It was bought by Mr Dunne, who claimed in 2014 that he had acquired the property in trust for his wife, Gayle, and that she was the beneficial owner. Mr Dunne was declared bankrupt in the US and Ireland in 2013 and remains bankrupt.

Mr Lehane has contended that the property was beneficially owned by Mr Dunne from 2005 to March 2013, when it was transferred to a Cypriot company called Yesreb, which had been established, it's claimed, on instructions from Mr Dunne's wife, and, or his father.

Mr Lehane has claimed the transfer to Yesreb was part of a series of "sham transactions" and void under law.

Celtic Trustees, the trust headed by Mr Desmond and which was established for the benefit of his children, acquired Walford from Yesreb in 2016 for €14.25m, the High Court was told.

That was around the time that Mr Lehane initiated proceedings against Yesreb.

Yesreb has mounted a full defence of the action, and demanded access to the transcript of the interview with Ms Crowley.

The High Court also said that disclosure must also be made by Celtic Trustees to the official assignee of three emails sent by Mr Dunne to Mr Desmond, in relation to a separate but related legal action being taken against the official assignee by Celtic Trustees.

Irish Independent

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