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I owe the State nothing, says Dunne in US bankruptcy


Sean and Gayle Dunne. Photo: Julien Behal.

Sean and Gayle Dunne. Photo: Julien Behal.

Sean and Gayle Dunne. Photo: Julien Behal.

FORMER 'Baron of Ballsbridge' Sean Dunne has debts of up to $1bn (€780m) but denies owing the Irish State a cent.

The revelation about the size of his loans came as the businessman declared himself bankrupt in the United States.

In his submission to a court in Connecticut, Mr Dunne said he has assets of between $1m and $10m (€780,000 to €7.8m) but owes between $500m and $1bn.

He listed 39 separate entities to which he owes the money, including NAMA (€185m), Ulster Bank (€164m), AIB and Bank of Ireland.

NAMA, AIB and Bank of Ireland are all either part or fully State-owned, meaning the taxpayer is picking up the tab.

It is considered unlikely that anything more than a small fraction of the overall debt will ever be recovered.



Despite this, Mr Dunne (58) insists he does not owe the Irish exchequer anything.

"I have paid close on €100m in personal taxes to the Irish State, outside of company taxes and the substantial levies," Mr Dunne stated.

"I estimate that I employed over 200 people annually over a 25-year period in the Irish economy and contributed €250m to the Irish exchequer. Therefore, I am personally happy that my debt to the Irish State is clear," the developer added.

He accused NAMA of wanting to "rape" the finances of his family members.

He filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut late on Good Friday. "Unlike Jesus, I don't expect to rise again in three days, but certainly hope to make great strides within the next three years, debt free with a clean slate and with my fate back in my own hands," he stated.

The process in the US is far quicker than in Ireland, with debtors able to discharge their liability in around a year.

In comments that are sure to anger hard-pressed householders, who are paying for the mistakes of Celtic Tiger developers, Carlow-born Dunne defended his business decisions.

While he professed himself to be "truly sorry" if any of his decisions "contributed to any Irish person's economic woes", he said "we all know that the entire financial systems of Ireland and the world imploded".

He even defended his €379m purchase of the seven-acre former Jurys/Berkeley Court site in Ballsbridge in 2005, saying: "The idea that the Irish taxpayer would then be made liable for developers' and bank debts was equally incomprehensible and beyond anyone's worst nightmare."

And in a sign that he intends to bounce back from his troubles, Mr Dunne confidently predicted that his business career was far from over.

"If life is equated to a game of golf, I feel I still have the back nine to play.

"I have a sign in my office that reads: In the end everything will be ok. If it's not ok, it's not the end."

Mr Dunne has been fighting a series of battles against NAMA in the civil courts in Connecticut.

The agency is pursuing him and his wife Gayle Killilea on profits made on properties in the US and in Switzerland. Writing in the Sunday Independent, Mr Dunne said: "I regret any involvement I have had in making life difficult financially for any Irish resident."

Aiming fire at both NAMA and Ulster Bank, from which he borrowed to fund his high-rise plans for Ballsbridge, he accused both institutions of having him on a "wanted list like the Americans in Iraq" where he is the "ace of spades".

He said "chasing one of the poster boys of the property bust and his wife is their idea of a new blood sport".

Mr Dunne added: "I have recently discovered that NAMA... had effectively decided on November 30, 2010, to put me into receivership and to pursue non-debtor members of my family, including Gayle and my three adult children, through any means possible in order to rape their finances in an effort to pay off my debts."