HEAVILY indebted developer Sean Dunne has denied gifting a luxury apartment on the shores of Lake Geneva to his wife, socialite-turned-property developer Gayle Killilea – insisting a Swiss bank loaned her €2.8m to make the purchase.
Breaking his silence on the controversial deal, Mr Dunne insisted he never co-owned the apartment and that his name was only linked to it for residency purposes.
NAMA has alleged in the US courts that Mr Dunne fraudulently transferred his interest in the €4.3m apartment to his wife in a bid to put assets beyond the agency's reach before his business empire collapsed.
The property was transferred into the sole name of Ms Killilea, a former newspaper gossip columnist, in January 2010. The 'toxic bank' took over Mr Dunne's bad loans a few months later.
The deal is one of four property transactions involving Ms Killilea being investigated by NAMA as part of its pursuit of Mr Dunne over unpaid property debts of €185m.
The agency has questioned where Ms Killilea got the money to buy properties in Switzerland and the US.
Mr Dunne – once dubbed the Baron of Ballsbridge over his ambitious plans for the upmarket Dublin suburb – had consistently refused to comment on the apartment purchase in Chene-Bougeries, close to Geneva's famous yacht club.
However, his version of events has finally emerged in documents seen by the Irish Independent and Mr Dunne claims:
• His wife alone, and not he, bought the apartment for 4.65 million Swiss francs (€3.8m) in July 2008.
• Ms Killilea got a 3.5 million Swiss franc(€2.8m) loan from Credit Suisse and paid the rest of the asking price from her own funds.
• His name only appeared on the title deeds "to establish his Swiss domicile" and at the request of Credit Suisse "because of his then substantial net worth".
Mr Dunne said it had always been planned he would release his interest in the apartment once his Swiss residency was established.
However, before this could happen, Ms Killilea had to clear one million Swiss francs (€810,000) of her loan, as the bank considered his removal from the mortgage as diminishing its security.
The transfer into Ms Killilea's sole name occurred in January 2010. Shortly afterwards, the Dunnes set up a home in the US, where Ms Killilea began buying houses in the millionaires' enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut.
The Geneva apartment was sold that July for 5.3 million Swiss francs (€4.3m).
According to Mr Dunne, his wife's "profit on this transaction, after carrying costs, transaction fees, and expenses, was a relatively nominal 13,860 Swiss francs (€11,200)".
NAMA claims these deals netted the Dunnes millions, while Mr Dunne's debts at home went unpaid. Mr Dunne denies this.
NAMA has also raised questions about the transfer of land worth €2.7m in Goatstown, Dublin to his wife in 2008. Lawyers representing Ms Killilea have objected to NAMA requests for records relating to the transfer.
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 the agency – 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.
Last year 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.