Dunne’s US bankruptcy official seeks private hearing

Connecticut court asked to exclude the public in order to discuss private family law proceedings

The official overseeing Seán Dunne’s US bankruptcy has asked a Connecticut court to exclude the public from the hearing of an application tomorrow to discuss private family law proceedings involving the property developer.

Bankruptcy trustee Rich Coan has asked the Connecticut bankruptcy court to hear in private his application to seek details of family law proceedings in Ireland and Switzerland involving the developer, who has debts of $942 million (€690 million).

Mr Coan is seeking details of the family law proceedings to investigate how Mr Dunne's wife Gayle Killilea Dunne is owed $44 million (€32 million) by the developer arising from a Swiss legal action.

Mr Dunne, who filed for bankruptcy in the US in March last year, has said that the debt arose from a family law case taken against him by Ms Killilea Dunne in Switzerland in 2010 over his failure to honour an agreement to give her €100 million five years earlier, a fifth of his fortune at that time, in return for “love and affection”.

READ MORE

He refused to answer any further questions about the Swiss case during a meeting with creditors in February, saying that he was bound by the in-camera rule covering family law proceedings in Ireland.

In a further twist in these complex legal proceedings, a lawyer at the US Trustee’s office, which monitors bankruptcies, has objected to the trustee’s application to shield documents in the case from the public.

Bankruptcy code Attorney Abigail Hausberg said the US bankruptcy code presumed a public right of access to all documents filed in the case of a debtor.

She argued in a court filing last week that Mr Coan and one of Mr Dunne's creditors, the National Asset Management Agency, had not met the burden for "sealing documents" under bankruptcy law by proving that the information was "a trade secret or other protected confidential information or is of a scandalous or defamatory nature".

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent