Dermot Desmond sues over ‘leak’ of purchase of Sean Dunne property

Businessman accuses Insolvency Service of Ireland and Bankruptcy Trustee Chris Lehane of leaking private details to media

Businessman Dermot Desmond and members of his family are suing the Insolvency Service of Ireland and Sean Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy trustee over alleged leaking of confidential material to a newspaper concerning an agreement to buy a Dublin 4 property owned by Mr Dunne. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Businessman Dermot Desmond and members of his family are suing the Insolvency Service of Ireland and Sean Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy trustee over alleged leaking of confidential material to a newspaper concerning an agreement to buy a Dublin 4 property owned by Mr Dunne. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Businessman Dermot Desmond and members of his family are suing the Insolvency Service of Ireland and Sean Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy trustee over alleged leaking of confidential material to a newspaper concerning an agreement to buy a Dublin 4 property owned by Mr Dunne.

In a ruling on pre-trial discovery matters on Friday, Ms Justice Caroline Costello directed the Desmond side to provide all documents relating to the sale agreement for the Walford property on Shrewsbury road.

The case arises from an agreement by a trust, set up to benefit Mr Desmond’s four children, to purchase Walford from its owner, Cypriot registered Yesreb Holdings in December 2016.

Mr Desmond, settlor of the Isle of Man registered Celtic Trustees Ltd trust (CTL); his children Zoe, Brett, Ross and Derry, and CTL claim confidential material in letters sent to the ISI and Official Assignee Chris Lehane about the agreement appeared in the Sunday Business Post three days later.

Due to the alleged “leak”, the Desmonds claim their rights to privacy were breached and they are seeking damages, including aggravated and punitive damages, from the defendants.

Mr Lehane and the ISI say they did not disclose any material to any third party and deny any breach of privacy or confidentiality has occurred. They say they are not responsible for the conduct of the newspaper, against which no proceedings have been issued by the plaintiffs.

They also argue the plaintiffs ought to have known any purchase agreement for Walford would result in significant controversy, given media interest in Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy.

Issues concerning the ownership of Walford, bought for €58 million by Mr Dunne in 2005, are the subject of separate legal actions before the Commercial Court.

The plaintiffs claim, after the sale agreement was entered into, that Mr Lehane, the official in charge of Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy, brought legal proceedings against Yesreb and registered a lis pendens (legal claim) against Walford.

On January 5th, 2017, Mr Desmond’s solicitor, in a letter marked private and confidential, wrote to Mr Lehane requesting the lis pendens be vacated. The letter also disclosed Mr Desmond was the settlor of the trust, the only beneficiaries were his children, and the trust had acquired the property from Yesreb on December 6th, 2016.

In a reply next day from Mr Lehane’s lawyers, Mr Desmond was informed the lis pendens would not be vacated, the property was beneficially owned by Mr Dunne, and the trust should provide Mr Lehane with certain details about the sale.

The plaintiffs claim the correspondence was disclosed to third parties, including a journalist, because details in the letters appeared in the Sunday Business Post on January 8th and 15th, 2017.

They allege the leak came from the defendants.

The case came before Ms Justice Caroline Costello on Friday via pre-trial applications by both sides seeking discovery of documents. The plaintiffs sought discovery from the defendants of all documents relating to any communications by the defendants to any media outlet in relation to the Sean Dunne bankruptcy or related litigation.

They claimed those were necessary to establish their claim the defendants were the source of the leak but the defendants argued the material sought was not necessary for determination of the case and amounted to a fishing expedition.

The defendants agreed to discover certain documents, including relating to any communications by them to media outlets referred to in correspondence between the parties between January 5th and January 15th, 2017.

In their application, the defendants sought all documents relating to the sale agreement in respect of Walford, which the plaintiffs had refused to provide.

In her ruling, Ms Justice Costello refused the discovery order sought by the plaintiffs for reasons including the material sought was “speculative”. She ruled the material sought by the defendants was relevant to the case being advanced and should be provided within eight weeks.