Friday 24 January 2020

NAMA can use Dunne divorce evidence in bankruptcy case

Sean Dunne
Sean Dunne
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A US judge has ruled that the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) can use evidence from bust developer Sean Dunne's divorce case as the agency seeks to block him from being discharged as a bankrupt.

A court in Connecticut, where the one-time 'Baron of Ballsbridge' now lives, has decided a judgment made by an Irish High Court judge can be used as part of Nama's case.

Mr Dunne, who is now married to former socialite and gossip columnist Gayle Killilea, divorced from his first wife, Jennifer Coyle, in 2001.

The decision is significant as it comes after months of legal wrangling over whether details of Irish "in-camera" divorce proceedings could be aired in the US bankruptcy court.

Mr Dunne had previously argued Irish laws prevented the disclosure of the information,

In resolving the issue, Judge Alan Shiff agreed to a proposal from Nama that the divorce case findings, made by Mr Justice Henry Abbott in Dublin, be given to the bankruptcy court "under seal".

This means they will not be disclosed publicly, but the court will be able to examine them and take them into consideration.

Mr Dunne, who has debts of €695m, has listed Ms Coyle as one of his creditors.

He referred to her as Creditor B, who has claims against Mr Dunne for $5.7m (€4.3m) arising from a $3.2m (€2.4m) in-camera court judgment and legal costs of $2.5m (€1.9m).

When Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy last year he said that both the judgment and the legal costs were "under appeal".

The move to include details of the divorce proceedings is just one of several Nama has taken against Mr Dunne, who owes the agency €185m.

The agency is opposing his discharge as a bankrupt, and believes that he fraudulently transferred money to Ms Killilea and that this cash has been allegedly used to set up her property development business. The couple deny the claims.

It has issued 15 subpoenas or deposition requests to banking institutions, lawyers and business people as it bids to unravel Mr Dunne's finances.

The agency also hired corporate investigations firm Kroll to do a trawl of his business and property interests.

Nama claims Mr Dunne has withheld information and is pressing the former tycoon for further details on bank accounts, tax returns, and records relating to properties in Switzerland, Connecticut and New York. Mr Dunne claimed he could not supply Nama with certain emails as he had closed accounts on two occasions after becoming concerned they were hacked.

He has also denied withholding information about any relevant bank accounts.

As well as Mr Justice Abbot's decision, other family law proceedings involving Mr Dunne are also likely to become part of the bankruptcy case.

Ms Killilea has agreed to provide the US court with details of family law proceedings she took against her husband, as long as she gets an assurance the information will not be made public.

Mr Dunne has previously disclosed that Mr Killilea sued him over a $44m (€32.5m) debt, but declined to go into further detail, citing Swiss court rules surrounding family cases. The couple lived in Geneva in 2010, before moving to Connecticut.

Bankruptcy trustee Richard Coan has said family law case records "may detail the transfer of tens of millions of euro" to Ms Killilea.

Mr Dunne was once one of the country's highest-profile developers and was behind ambitious plans for a Knightsbridge-style development on the sites of the Jurys and Towers hotels in Ballsbridge, Dublin, which he bought for €380m in 2005. However, the scheme ran into opposition and failed.

Irish Independent

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