Gayle Killilea professes ignorance in US court over property sale

Sean Dunne’s wife tells civil trial she does not know what a notary stamp looks like

Gayle Killilea is fighting to hold on to tens of millions of dollars of assets that the plaintiff says her husband, Sean Dunne, gave her to evade creditors as his Irish-based property empire was collapsing. Photograph: Collins

Gayle Killilea is fighting to hold on to tens of millions of dollars of assets that the plaintiff says her husband, Sean Dunne, gave her to evade creditors as his Irish-based property empire was collapsing. Photograph: Collins

 

Gayle Killilea repeatedly did not recall, professed ignorance or said she did not understand when questioned about a Swiss condominium sale and other matters on Friday afternoon in her husband Sean Dunne’s US civil trial.

In one exchange, the plaintiff’s attorney, Thomas Curran, who called Ms Killilea to testify on the trial’s fifth day, asked her to confirm that an English language Swiss legal document turned over Mr Dunne’s half interest in their multimillion Swiss franc condominium to her as an advance on her inheritance. She responded that she didn’t understand how such things were worded.

“You have a law degree, do you not?” Mr Curran asked.

“I do,” Killilea replied. “Not a Swiss one.”

Earlier in her testimony, Ms Killilea said she did not to know what a notary stamp – a basic part of many legal documents – looked like.

Ms Killilea is fighting to hold on to tens of millions of dollars of assets that the plaintiff, the trustee for Mr Dunne’s US bankruptcy, says her husband gave her to evade creditors as his Irish-based property empire was collapsing in the late 2000s. The trustee is suing to recover the assets for the benefit of Mr Dunne’s creditors, primarily the National Asset Management Agency and Ulster Bank.

Evade creditors

Ms Killilea and Mr Dunne’s lawyers say he turned over the assets to her out of love and wish to provide for her family, not to evade creditors.

One of the assets in dispute is a Geneva condominium purchased for 3.5 million Swiss francs in 2008. According to documents entered into evidence, the couple used 928,264.27 Swiss francs from the account of one of Dunne’s companies, DCD Builders, for part of the property’s down payment.

Asked by Mr Curran, Ms Killilea said she didn’t recall use of the DCD funds for the down payment. Pressed on the matter, she replied, “I presume so.”

Sean Dunne Photograph: Collins Courts
Sean Dunne Photograph: Collins Courts

In her testimony, Ms Killilea said that documents dated 2009 transferring Mr Dunne’s half of the condominium to her didn’t necessarily reflect when he turned it over to her. She traced her full ownership to a 2005 agreement the couple wrote out by hand while on holiday in Thailand in which Mr Dunne agreed to give her certain assets from his then-burgeoning property empire. Pursuant to that agreement, they agreed the condominium would always be hers alone, even though it was originally in both their names, she testified.

Asked by Mr Curran if that meant Ms Killilea had full ownership of the condominium as of 2005, even though it was not purchased until 2008, she replied, “Yes, in theory.”

Luxury home

Ms Killilea sold the condominium for 5.3 million Swiss francs in 2010 as she was preparing to move to the US, according to testimony and documents entered into evidence. Asked if the proceeds were used to pay for her and Mr Dunne’s luxury American home, she replied some of it could have been.

Mr Curran entered emails into evidence in which Ms Killilea and her husband discussed house shopping in Connecticut in early 2010. Ms Killilea, however, denied that she was planning to move to the US with her husband and young family at time, saying she was merely “considering it”. She explained that she and her husband were having a marital dispute.

“Why didn’t you say anything about the martial dispute in the email?” Mr Curran asked.

“I don’t tell real estate agents about my marital disputes, Mr Curran,” she replied.

Closed courtroom

As Mr Curran continued to probe, Ms Killilea turned to US district court judge Jeffrey A Meyer and said she believed that Mr Curran was entering the realm of family court matters. Not long after, Judge Meyer closed the courtroom to the press for about 15 minutes so those matters could be discussed.

Ms Killilea is expected to return to the stand on Monday.