Tuesday 16 January 2018

Dunne's €2.7m property transfer to wife probed

Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle
Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle

Shane Phelan Investigations Editor

NAMA is investigating the transfer of land worth €2.7m by developer Sean Dunne to his wife, socialite Gayle Killilea, before his business empire collapsed.

The agency has the power to reverse an asset transfer if it demonstrates it was carried out to put assets beyond its reach.

The heavily indebted property tycoon declared the land transfer in a statement of affairs compiled for the agency, which has been seen by the Irish Independent.

The deal was one of three asset transfers to his wife, totalling just over €4.6m in value, declared by Mr Dunne.

The other two were a "director's loan" of €1.95m and a small amount of shares, worth €635.

According to Mr Dunne, formerly one of the country's largest property developers, the transfers all occurred in 2008, a year before NAMA came into being.

However, legal correspondence seen by the Irish Independent reveals NAMA is probing the land deal and has sought records held by Mr Dunne and his wife relating to it.

A NAMA spokesman declined to comment last night

The NAMA Act allows the courts to reverse transfers in cases where it is demonstrated they were used to put assets beyond the reach of NAMA, even if the transfer occurred before the agency was formally set up.

NAMA has already reached out-of-court settlements with some developers who transferred assets out of their own name.

The 'toxic bank' is currently pursuing Mr Dunne in the US courts in a bid to enforce a €185m judgment secured against him in the High Court in Dublin earlier this year.

The agency took over several non-performing loans Irish banks gave to Mr Dunne, who had been dubbed the 'Baron of Ballsbridge' over his audacious, and ultimately doomed, plan to redevelop the site of the former Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels.

The information currently being sought by NAMA relates to the December 2008 transfer of €2.7m worth of land at the Irish Glass Bottle Social Club in Goatstown, Dublin to Ms Killilea.

Mr Dunne, in partnership with fellow developer Sean Mulryan, had paid €18m for the site and hoped to build student apartments there. However, the plan was dashed when Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council decided not to rezone the site.

Details of the transfer of Mr Dunne's share of the land into his wife's name were notified to NAMA in December 2010.

However, the agency did not take any action at the time.

NAMA began appointing receivers to some of Mr Dunne's properties in July 2011 and secured a High Court order for the repayment of €185m in March of this year.

Two months later the High Court ordered Mr Dunne to repay €164m to Ulster Bank, a non-NAMA bank which helped finance his purchase of the hotels in Ballsbridge.

Ms Killilea has already responded to NAMA's request for information on the Goatstown transfer, refusing to provide the records requested on legal grounds.

Response

It is understood Mr Dunne has yet to make a response.

The couple set up a home in the millionaire's enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut two years ago, although Mr Dunne regularly travels back to Ireland. Ms Killilea, a former newspaper gossip columnist, has reinvented herself as a property developer since moving stateside.

But NAMA has alleged money originally made by Mr Dunne was channelled through his wife to pay for a series of property deals in the US and Switzerland in the past two years.

Three of the properties identified by NAMA in court papers sold for a combined total of €5.2m more than they were originally bought for.

NAMA claims these deals netted the Dunnes millions, while Sean Dunne's debts at home went unpaid.

NAMA also alleges the Dunnes have used a number of lawyers, acting as property trustees, and shell companies to hide assets from creditors.

Mr Dunne has denied owning any property in the US.

Irish Independent

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