Wednesday 22 August 2018

Sean Dunne says he has 'zero interest in' and does not own €58m Walford property

Developer Sean Dunne
Developer Sean Dunne

Tim Healy

Businessman Sean Dunne says he has never been the owner of, and has "zero interest" in, a Dublin 4 property known as Walford which was purchased in July 2005 for €58m.

He said Walford, on Shrewsbury Road, was bought in trust for his wife Gayle, was her asset, and nothing to do with his bankruptcy. 

He has plenty of documentary evidence from several experts in Dublin to prove this, he said.

He was under his second day of cross examination in his opposition to an application by official assignee (OA) in bankruptcy, Chris Lehane, to extend his bankruptcy for non-cooperation which is disputes.

'Walford' on Shrewsbury Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
'Walford' on Shrewsbury Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

The only person who was disputing ownership of Walford was Mr Lehane, Mr Dunne said. 

He said he came to an agreement with his wife Gayle, following his "messy divorce" from his first marriage, that all their assets were to be kept separately.

He said Gayle was "never a shareholder, director or bondholder" in regards to any of his assets and "vice-versa."

The couple never "owned a motor car together," he added.

He accepted he had dealt with assets belonging to his wife based in the UK, the US and South Africa, but not in Ireland.

He accepted he was the "driving force" behind several unsuccessful planning applications concerning Walford, bar one application in 2013 when he was in the US.

He also accepted he had acted as a broker for a Cypriot company called Yesreb Holdings, whose ultimate beneficiaries are his children, in an unsuccessful attempt to sell Walford, which Yesreb acquired in the months before he was adjudicated bankrupt. 

Mr Dunne said he hopes that other proceedings concerning the ownership of Walford, which Mr Lehane claims was beneficially owned by Mr Dunne, could be heard by the court "next week."

In 2013 Ulster Bank sought to have him adjudicated bankrupt here after he had defaulted on some €164m loans.

The following month, Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut in the United States, when he claimed to have debts of $1bn and assets of $55m.

A US bankruptcy trustee was appointed in respect of Mr Dunne by a US court.

The Irish bankruptcy proceedings continued and in July 2013 the Irish High Court adjudicated Mr Dunne bankrupt.

On the second day of Mr Dunne's cross-examination by Mark Sanfey SC, for Mr Lehane, the businessman said that he considered questions about Walford to be a ruse to get at assets that belonged to members of his family.

He denied he had told a lie when he said he did know what Yesreb did in an interview conducted by the OA and his solicitor and with Mr Dunne on June 29, 2016.

At that interview he said he was "badgered" and "brow-beaten" which he described as a five-hour long "kangaroo court." and "an abuse of process".

He said did not wish to discuss Yesreb or Walford at that interview because his wife had asked him not to.

Mr Dunne said while he gave Mr Lehane his principal place of residence he did not tell him where he was living because "I did not trust the man."

He said he did not want the press to know where his family was living and said that when living in the US photographers had followed him and his family to Mass and had photographed him buying ice cream for his children.

He also said the OA had acted like "a bounty hunter" and had hired private investigators to discover where he had resided in the UK.

He said that issues raised by the OA about his failure to give a home address were "a red herring." He had "never hidden" and had always been contactable.

The case resumes next week.

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