Thursday 23 January 2020

Seán Dunne has 'created the illusion' he is poor, bankruptcy trustee tells court

Seán Dunne says his sole source of income is from work for a company in which his wife, Gayle Killilea, is involved. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Seán Dunne says his sole source of income is from work for a company in which his wife, Gayle Killilea, is involved. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A US bankruptcy trustee has accused Celtic Tiger property developer Seán Dunne of creating the "illusion" that he is impoverished.

The Carlow-born businessman, once one of Ireland's richest men, has claimed in court papers he is unable to comply with a US court order to pay an €8,500 legal bill because he is now earning just €200 a month.

Mr Dunne now risks being held in contempt of court for a third time in Connecticut, where he is embroiled in protracted bankruptcy proceedings. But trustee Richard Coan has disputed Mr Dunne's claims that he doesn't have the money and wants him held in contempt.

In a court filing last month, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Coan said Mr Dunne was "simply ignoring" the court order, which required him to make a contribution to the trustee's legal bills. He also claimed Mr Dunne had "spent decades arranging his financial affairs to create the illusion of his impoverishment".

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Mr Coan urged the court "not to let itself be deceived" by Mr Dunne and asked it to consider that the developer had been able to hire an experienced trial counsel.

In a court filing last week, Mr Dunne claimed he was unable to pay the legal bill or make payments of €7,000-a-month into his bankruptcy estate, as he has been ordered to do by the High Court in Dublin.

That court heard he had salaries of $120,000 (€109,300) and €12,000-a-year from two companies.

But Mr Dunne now claims his sole source of income is just €200-a-month he receives for consultancy work for Amrakbo, a company his wife, former socialite turned property developer Gayle Killilea, is involved in.

The row comes just months after a US jury found Mr Dunne fraudulently transferred millions of euro to Ms Killilea. She has now been ordered to pay €18m to the US bankruptcy trustee.

The couple relocated to the US in 2010 following the financial crash, but Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy there three years later, with debts of around €700m. He was also adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland the same year.

A court heard in 2017 the couple had legally separated.

Mr Dunne says he now lives in London.

In support of his application to have Mr Dunne held in contempt, Mr Coan pointed to a High Court ruling last year by Ms Justice Caroline Costello.

The judge said it appeared from information available to the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy that Mr Dunne's normal personal expenses were "being paid other than from his salary". She said there was evidence of lavish expenditure by Mr Dunne, though this may have been paid by his wife or a company she owns.

Irish Independent

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