Methodical scrutiny in US of Sean Dunne finances extends to wardrobe
Dunne finances stripped bare during long day of legal examination
Sean Dunne (second left) walks with his attorney James Berman (right) into Federal Court in New Haven, Connecticut, yesterday. Photograph: Steve Miller
“That seems like a lot,” said Richard Coan, the bankruptcy trustee as he scanned details of Seán Dunne’s bankruptcy schedule which listed his personal wardrobe at $9,000.
“If I held a rag sale, would it amount to that?”
Of all the questions addressed to Mr Dunne during a long day of methodical scrutiny in an unremarkable, beige room deep inside the Federal Building in New Haven, nothing seemed as exposing or humiliating as the details about his wardrobe.
Not the most bluntly put question of the morning session about his financial transactions with his wife: “I will ask Mr Dunne if he owes Gayle Killilea $44 million?”, nor the details pertaining to the will of his late father, nor the outstanding insurance claim emanating from a leak which damaged an old oak floor in Ouragh, the former Dunne residence on Shrewsbury Road.
This house is now leased to South Africa as the ambassadorial residence.
Mr Dunne wasn’t sure what the final reckoning might be for the damaged floor: if it must be replaced, then “it could be in the order of 150,000”.
Whether he was referring to dollars or euros for that particular item wasn’t clarified.
It was one of the rare instances when Mr Coan did not press for more information in a meeting which began to strip bare the labyrinthine financial circumstances of one of the boldest property developers of Ireland’s illusory boom.
The Carlow man though still has something of the old chutzpah. Pausing to consider if those suits and shirts from the champagne years would indeed fetch the stated amount in a fire sale, Mr Dunne said: “You never know, you never know.”
At yesterday’s meeting, Mr Dunne confirmed that he moved to Connecticut in late August 2010 under an E2 ( investor) visa and is now “what is known as the chief executive or managing director” of Mountbrook USA.
He agreed that he could provide copies of the visa and would have relevant documents.
“If I don’t, my wife does,” Mr Dunne added.
And it was the business transactions between Mr Dunne and Ms Killilea on which Mr Coan dwelt longest in his line of questioning.
Explaining why, despite being the listed as the sole owner of the property, he had transferred the ownership of fixtures and fittings from the family home on Shrewsbury Road to his wife, Mr Dunne said: “It was something she requested and something to which I consented. And I think it is fair to say that in Irish law the family home is considered 50-50.”
Chronicling the purchase of a hotel in South Africa around 1997-98 through the company Mountbrook Ireland, Mr Dunne told how he disposed of his 20 per cent shareholding in that company in 2008 in a sale to Ms Killilea and that the company now exists under the trading name of Mavoir.
“I wouldn’t be familiar with all of her investments and affairs,” he said when pressed as to whether his wife’s current interest in the company.
“It is hard for me to believe that you would not be in consultation with your wife about these matters,” Mr Coan said.
Through all of this, the legal representatives for Nama and Ulster Bank sat silent, at times looking stony-faced, at times jotting furiously, at times looking profoundly bored.
In hearing opening arguments for Mr Dunne’s 341 case, Judge Alan Schiff described the case as “a Pandora’s box.”
So it transpired as Mr Dunne was quizzed about the myriad of property deals and developments and his creditors. In the afternoon, Mr Dunne faced a stiff line of questioning from Tom Curran, representing Nama.
It centred on the presence in the room of Ross Connolly, a former employee of the Dunne group and on whether he had an office.
Mr Dunne asserted that he didn’t know, nor did he know if anyone had paid for Mr Connelly’s transport to the US for the meeting.
Mr Curran also asked whether Mountbrook USA had an office in the US or anywhere and expressed incredulity at the answer:
“So you work for a company that doesn’t have an office anywhere in the world?”
He pressed Mr Dunne as to who owned the computer in the Dunne family home.
“I’m not that computer literate,” Mr Dunne said before confirming that it belonged to his wife.
Computers; million dollar pensions; housing estates; old suits . . . It all came down to stuff that needs to be paid for.