Sale of Sean Dunne’s former Dublin home under examination
Assignee’s lawyer calls Walford sale the ‘conveyancing equivalent of Lazarus – a miracle’
Walford on Shrewsbury Road: Sean Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy trustee is examining the circumstances of the €14 million sale of a south Dublin mansion, bought by the property developer for nearly €58 million in 2005.
Developer Sean Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy trustee is examining the circumstances of the €14 million sale of a south Dublin mansion, which was bought by Mr Dunne for almost €58 million in 2005.
Official assignee Chris Lehane wants Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy extended over alleged lack of co-operation by the developer with the trustee.
In pursuit of that application, Mr Lehane’s lawyers examined solicitor Donal McAuliffe at the High Court on Wednesday over the €14 million sale of “Walford” on Shrewsbury Road to a Cyprus company, Yesreb Holdings, in 2013.
Last December, Yesreb sold the property for €14.25 million to Celtic Trustees, a family trust of financier Dermot Desmond.
Mr Lehane registered a lis pendens, a legal claim, concerning Walford on December 9th. Mr Desmond, his children and Celtic Trustees, who claim the Celtic Trustees deal went through before that date, have brought separate proceedings against the trustee.
In Mr Lehane’s proceedings, he believes Mr Dunne, as part of alleged efforts to put his assets beyond the reach of the trustee, was behind the 2013 sale of Walford to Yesreb, and that Yesreb was secretly owned by Mr Dunne or his wife Gayle, or both of them.
Yesreb purportedly bought Walford from Gayle Dunne on March 29th, 2013, the same day Sean Dunne filed for bankruptcy in the US.
On Wednesday, Edward Farrelly BL, for Mr Lehane, put to Mr McAuliffe, as solicitor for Yesreb, that the Walford transaction was the “conveyancing equivalent of Lazarus – a miracle”.
It was “hardly the best deal in the world” for Yesreb to permit Mr Dunne, an undischarged bankrupt and former owner of Walford, to sell the property for the company, counsel said.
Mr McAuliffe said the conveyancing procedure involved was “perfectly legitimate”, reflecting how things worked “in the real world of conveyancing”. He said he had instructions from Yesreb, through Sean Dunne as its agent, to sell the property.
Mr McAuliffe said he was happy to accept what Mr Dunne said, that he was acting as a “negotiator” on behalf of Yesreb.
Asked if could be understand how the transaction might look to an outside investor, he said: “Of course I can.”
Mr McAuliffe added that he considered some of the tone of counsel’s examination unfair and adversarial when the solicitor was attending to assist the court. This was “a very simple conveyancing transaction” and the title was “clean as a whistle”.
Counsel said Mr Lehane believed that the first time Mr Dunne produced a hand-written deed of trust, dated July 23rd 2005, stating the Walford property was beneficially owned by his wife, was 2011 at the earliest and more likely 2012.
Mr McAuliffe agreed that deed was critical in relation to title to Walford and the claim that Gayle Dunne owns it. In the deed, Mr Dunne also consented to transfer of Walford to his wife or her nominee.
Could not recall
Mr McAuliffe agreed that Yesreb is the nominee and said he could not recall exactly when he got the deed from Mr Dunne. He agreed the deed was on the title documents in 2013.
He agreed an opinion provided to him by a barrister, referring to Sean Dunne as “your client”, was not on his file. There was “a fine line” between Sean and Gayle Dunne, but she was the beneficial owner of Walford, he said.
Mr Farrelly said a letter from the barrister referring to a meeting between her and Mr McAuliffe in December 2011 had said, referring to Walford, that there was “no deed of trust”. Mr McAuliffe accepted that, if he had not given the barrister the deed then, he did not physically have it then.
The examination was then adjourned to facilitate production of various documents.
Also on Wednesday, Ms Justice Caroline Costello reserved her ruling on an application by Bill Shipsey SC, for Sean Dunne, for cross-examination of Mr Lehane concerning his bid to have Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy extended.
The judge also fixed April 4th to hear an application by Gayle Dunne aimed at discharging an interim order restraining her from reducing her assets below €50 million.