Thursday 22 August 2019

Nama 'concerned' when Sean Dunne set up residency in one of America's richest towns, court hears

Bankruptcy: Businessman Seán Dunne had debts of €700m in 2013. Photo: Collins Courts
Bankruptcy: Businessman Seán Dunne had debts of €700m in 2013. Photo: Collins Courts

Debra West

Sean Dunne, the property developer who left a string of debt in Ireland and then declared bankruptcy in the United States, complained that he was a victim of the press.

Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy trial began in New Haven, Connecticut this week and heard from Alan Stewart, the chief legal officer for Nama.

The court heard Nama officials were “concerned” in 2010 that Mr Dunne was setting up residency in Greenwich, Connecticut - one of the richest towns in America.

“We were alerted by news stories that he had moved to the US,” Mr Stewart said. “That concerned the team from NAMA.”

Mr Dunne assured them he was living in Ireland.

“I don’t own property in the USA,” Mr Dunne wrote in a November 9, 2010 email.

“I am a victim of lots of inaccurate publicity from time to time that I have refrained from engaging with, for obvious reasons.”

His now estranged wife, Gayle Killilea, who is also a defendant in the civil trial brought by US Bankruptcy Trustee Richard Coan, had complaints of her own about the loss of privacy she and the Dunne family experienced at the hands of the press after the property crash that sent Ireland into recession.

Mr Coan is seeking to recover tens of millions in euro and property assets, including a €58m home in Dublin that he says Mr Dunne illegally transferred to Killilea.

Brian Spears, the lawyer for Mr Dunne, and Peter Nolin, the lawyer for Ms Killilea, told the court in opening arguments that the property was transferred out of love and that the couple had agreed on the transfer long before the crash.

Thomas Curran, the lawyer for the bankruptcy trustee Mr Coan, suggested a more nefarious reason.

He said Dunne was simply trying to offload assets the banks might want to recover. 

Later, to bolster that point, he called Mr Stewart from Nama to the stand.

Mr Stewart spent hours in the witness box reading letters of default from bank after bank, that sought to recover loans it made to Mr Dunne and his businesses.

The trial, in front of Judge Jeffrey Meyer and a 10-person jury, is expected to last about three weeks, and Dunne is expected to testify. 

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