Monday 14 October 2019

Sean Dunne claims he earns just €200 a month as he faces charge of contempt

€700m debts: Seán Dunne has been declared bankrupt in the US and Ireland. Photo: CourtPix
€700m debts: Seán Dunne has been declared bankrupt in the US and Ireland. Photo: CourtPix
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Celtic Tiger property developer Seán Dunne has pleaded with a US judge not to find him in contempt of court for failing to pay a legal bill, claiming he is now earning just €200 a month.

In a court filing, the one-time 'Baron of Ballsbridge' also claimed he was unable to come up with the €7,000 a month an Irish judge has ordered he pay into his bankruptcy estate to increase the assets available to creditors.

The Carlow-born businessman said he had no significant income, had difficulty getting work, and was not in a position to contribute to the cost of looking after his family.

He said that whatever income he had was "fully expended on living expenses and legal fees" arising from his unusual dual bankruptcy in the US and Ireland.

The claims were made in an affidavit filed with the US District Court in Connecticut, where Mr Dunne (65) is facing a potential contempt sanction for failing to comply with an order to pay up to $10,000 (€9,100) towards the legal fees of his US bankruptcy trustee Richard Coan.

He has already been found in contempt twice by American courts for not producing emails potentially relating to his business dealings.

Mr Dunne and his wife, former socialite Gayle Killilea (44), relocated to the wealthy enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut in 2010, following the financial crash in Ireland.

Ms Killilea reinvented herself as a developer, while Mr Dunne has said he was employed by her Mountbrook USA company as a project manager. He filed for bankruptcy there in 2013 with debts of around €700m and was also adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland later that year.

Following a court order last April that Mr Dunne pay Mr Coan's legal costs, the businessman was sent a bill of $9,330 (€8,500) by the trustee.

He was given until June to pay, but when he didn't Mr Coan filed a motion for Mr Dunne to show cause as to why he should not be held in contempt.

In an affidavit filed in court, Mr Dunne said he was now living in London.

He said he had no objections to the court order or the amount involved, but he was "financially unable to comply with the order and make such payments".

Mr Dunne said this was due to the bankruptcy proceedings in the US and Ireland.

An Irish court previously heard Mr Dunne was earning $120,000-a-year (€109,300) from Mountbrook USA and €12,000-a-year for consulting for Amrakbo, another firm his wife is involved in.

However, in his affidavit Mr Dunne said: "As I am now bankrupt, I have great difficulty in obtaining work.

"Currently, I have no significant current or future income available to me, except my current income from Amrakbo, the company I am currently employed with, which has been reduced to €200 per month since the beginning of January 2019."

A separate document filed in court by lawyers for Mr Dunne argued he had no means to pay and his conduct was "not wilful".

In 2017, the High Court heard Mr Dunne and Ms Killilea had legally separated.

In October last year, a High Court judge extended Mr Dunne's Irish bankruptcy for 12 years for his "wilful and deliberate" failure to co-operate with his bankruptcy trustee in Ireland.

Last June a jury in the United States ordered Ms Killilea to pay €18m to the US bankruptcy trustee after finding that assets were transferred out of creditors' reach as Mr Dunne's property empire had unravelled.

Irish Independent

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