US court rules that Sean Dunne can also be bankrupted in Ireland
A US court has cleared the way for bust former property developer Sean Dunne to be declared bankrupt in Ireland.
The one time 'Baron of Ballsbridge' – who has debts of $942m (€718m) – last night lost his battle to confine his bankruptcy to the US, where he could have expected to emerge debt-free in as little as six months.
Instead, Judge Alan Shiff ruled in favour of an Ulster Bank motion, which will see proceedings continue both in the United States and in Ireland, where it can take up to 12 years to be discharged.
Lawyers for Mr Dunne had argued that it would be "unfair" for him to be bankrupted in Ireland. The decision is a major blow for the Carlow-born property developer, who has said he is anxious to make a fresh start as soon as possible.
How the 'dual-bankruptcy' proceedings will work in practice has yet to be worked out, but a hearing is now expected to take place in Dublin early in July.
Mr Dunne and his wife, socialite and former gossip columnist Gayle Killilea, moved to the millionaire's enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut three years ago as the property developer's empire crumbled.
He did not attend yesterday's hearing in Stamford, Connecticut and his legal team declined to comment on the outcome.
Lawyer Henry Baer, representing Ulster Bank, told the Irish Independent: "I'm very pleased with the court's decision today."
A point of concern earlier in the deliberations was whether bankruptcy proceedings had actually begun in Ireland. Mr Dunne's attorney James Berman argued that only a petition had been filed in Ireland and therefore Ulster Bank's motion was not relevant.
Ulster Bank had previously disclosed its intention to bankrupt Mr Dunne, who owes it €164m, but had been unable to serve papers on him, either in Ireland or the US.
Judge Shiff observed: "There is no bankruptcy case in Ireland yet. It's stalled."
Mr Baer argued that the cases in both jurisdictions were interconnected and that once the pending bankruptcy case in Ireland commenced protocol could be established in both countries.
"We need an active Irish case so we can have an established protocol," he said.
In granting the motion, Judge Shiff said several factors needed to be taken into account, including that the Irish court would consider appointing a representative who would engage with the US element of the case.
The judge requested that the court-appointed trustee of the case, Richard Coan, show restraint in pursuing depositions and litigation "until we see how Ireland courts decide their case." He added that the courts in the US needed to co-operate with those in Ireland.
In court documents, Mr Dunne indicated that he was eligible to get a green card and intends to apply for one.
Yesterday, the court-appointed trustee attorney, Mr Coan, filed a motion to compel Mr Dunne to produce documents, file schedules and attend a meeting with creditors.
He has previously accused Mr Dunne of failing to co-operate with requests for financial records.