Saturday 7 December 2019

Court bid to reverse Dunne transfer of €18m hotel to wife

Gayle Killilea
Gayle Killilea

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE official in charge of Sean Dunne's bankruptcy has launched High Court proceedings aimed at cancelling the businessman's transfer of an interest in an €18m South African hotel to his wife Gayle.

Chris Lehane, the Official Assignee administering Dunne's bankruptcy, wants to set aside 2005 and 2008 transactions between the Dunnes in respect of the Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa.

Mr Lehane told the court he had significant concerns about the agreements - which he believed had been conducted when Mr Dunne was unable to pay his debts as they fell due.

In particular the 2008 transfer had been done at a time when he had very significant liabilities in Ireland, the court heard.

Mr Lehane said he believed the transactions had been entered into with the intention of hindering, defeating or delaying Mr Dunne's creditors.

In proceedings against Mrs Gayle Dunne, Mr Lehane said he wanted the transfers declared null and void by the Irish High Court so that the assets could be realised for the benefit of Mr Dunne's creditors in Ireland. He estimated the hotel is worth between €17m to €18m subject to a secured-creditors' interest of €6m.

The court heard Mr Lehane had brought proceedings before the South African High Court in respect of the hotel.

The South African court, which had recognised Dunne's bankruptcy, granted Mr Lehane an asset preservation order.

A sworn statement by Mrs Dunne to the South African court had not contained an address for her. The statement said she was a property developer and hotelier, currently residing within the United States and the United Kingdom.

The statement also said she no longer lived full time in Connecticut and spent most of her time in the UK.

She said she resides with her children at a rented property, and added that she is close to completing the purchase of a property for £5m.

Mr Lehane said there was a complex corporate structure involving companies in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Mauritius and South Africa in regard to the ownership of the hotel. However, it did not appear to be disputed that Mrs Dunne was the ultimate owner of the hotel.

The court heard that Mrs Dunne's position in respect of the transfers was that her husband was solvent at the time of the transfers and was perfectly entitled to enter into the agreements.

The matter came before the High Court yesterday when Mr Justice Anthony Barr gave lawyers acting for Mr Lehane permission to serve the proceedings on Mrs Dunne outside the jurisdiction. The orders were sought because the official assignee said he does not know where Mrs Dunne currently lives.

The ruling means the proceedings concerning the transfer of the hotel can be served on lawyers in the US and Ireland, who are representing Mrs Dunne in other proceedings.

The orders were granted on an ex-parte or one-side-only basis.

Irish Independent

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