Tuesday 20 February 2018

NAMA probes Killilea's 
€3.6m US property deal

Property developer Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle Killilea. Ray Cullen
Property developer Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle Killilea. Ray Cullen

Shane Phelan

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is taking legal steps to investigate a multi-million euro New York property deal involving the wife and son of bust developer Sean Dunne.

The agency has asked a court to force a US law firm to reveal documents related to the purchase of a building in the fashionable SoHo district.

The property is being developed into apartments by Mr Dunne's wife Gayle Killilea and his son John Dunne.

A company they own bought the property for $4.9m (€3.65m) in cash and reportedly plans to spend an additional $13m (€9.7m) on the project.

The legal move comes as NAMA intensifies its scrutiny of land deals involving Ms Killilea (38) ahead of her husband's bankruptcy trial next year.

The agency, which is owed €185m by Mr Dunne, claims he defrauded creditors by transferring assets to his wife before he went bust and that this money has in turn been used to run property companies she controls. The claims have been denied by the Dunnes.

NAMA yesterday asked a court in Connecticut to compel New York law firm D'Agostino, Levine, Landesman & Lederman to reveal information it has related to the deal.

The law firm acted for Killilea and John Dunne's company TJD 21 LLC when it bought the SoHo property, 74 Grand Street, in February last year.

A NAMA subsidiary, National Asset Loan Management Ltd (NALM), claimed the law firm has refused to disclose documents concerning the deal and Sean Dunne on the grounds they were covered by attorney client privilege.

It wants the law firm to release any communications it had with Sean Dunne about the property, as well as contacts it had with TJD 21 LLC.

In recent weeks John Dunne (32) was also requested by NAMA to give evidence under oath in connection with his father's case.

It was one of 15 subpoenas or notices of deposition issued by the agency since October last year.

Sean Dunne, who turns 60 this month, has accused the agency of going "on a fishing expedition".

At a creditor's meeting earlier this year, Mr Dunne testified that his wife and son have an ownership interest in TJD 21 LLC.

He also told a separate creditor's meeting last year he was working as an employee of his wife's companies and had been involved in negotiations to buy the SoHo site.

Court records indicate NAMA has already been supplied with certain information by Knackal Realty Services, the Manhattan real estate company which handled the sale.

Property consultants JS Freeman Associates have estimated that once the project is complete, its owners could make a profit of $3.4m (€2.5m) from their investment.

Plans for the apartments, which will be located in one of the most sought after and historic residential areas in lower Manhattan, were approved by New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Dunne filed for bankruptcy in the US with debts of €695m last year. He has lived there since 2010.

The Carlow-born businessman was once one of the country's highest profile developers. However, a number of ventures, such as plans for a Knightsbridge-style development in Ballsbridge, Dublin, failed and his empire crumbled during the economic crash.

Irish Independent

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