Lawyer in Sean Dunne case calls couple ‘serial misleaders’
Gayle Killilea and husband accused of trying to shield wealth from creditors
Sean Dunne at the court in New Haven were the case now goes to the jury. Photograph: Douglas Healey
In his closing statement, the plaintiff’s lawyer in Sean Dunne and Gayle Killilea’s American civil trial called the couple serial misleaders who engaged in a years-long scheme to shield Sean Dunne’s wealth from his creditors during and after the collapse of his property development empire.
Speaking from a lectern facing the 10-member jury, Thomas Curran argued the evidence proved the couple improperly transferred tens of millions of dollars of his assets to her to conceal the funds and defraud creditors, suggesting at one point that they went so far as to feign marital discord as part of the ruse. He urged jurors to find for the plaintiffs, and order the couple to surrender tens of millions in assets so they can be distributed to creditors.
The couple’s lawyers in their closing statements denied the charges, insisting the transfers, which totaled more than €60 million, occurred before Mr Dunne’s businesses hit the rocks and were intended to secure Ms Killilea’s independence and the future of their children, not to defraud creditors. They asked jurors to find for their clients and order no funds returned.
“His intention was to provide for Ms Killilea and his family,” said Brian Spears, Mr Dunne’s lawyer.
Ms Killilea, Mr Dunne and Mr Dunne’s son from his first marriage, John Dunne, also a defendant, attended the final arguments in the three-week-plus trial at US District Court in New Haven, Connecticut.
The trustee in Mr Dunne’s American bankruptcy is seeking to claw tens of millions of dollars in assets back to pay creditors including the National Asset Management Agency and Ulster Bank.
In his remarks to the jury, Mr Curran dismissed as “bogus” a series of handwritten documents, including an un-witnessed 2005 agreement Mr Dunne and Ms Killilea drew up during a Thailand vacation in which he promised her a significant portion of his wealth. The couple’s lawyers argue the documents, which they say date to before his financial problems, dictated the wealth transfers, not an intent to protect assets as Dunne’s companies collapsed.
Mr Dunne, Mr Curran noted, was a sophisticated businessman who once bragged about paying one law firm $43.5 million in a single year, yet chose not to involve lawyers when he drew up documents that amounted to “massive, major life decisions.”
“He wanted to keep his options open to conceal and defraud,” Mr Curran told jurors. “He wanted his agreement to be held in a secret in a drawer and revealed only if and when he wanted to.”
Ms Killilea’s attorney, Peter Nolin, dismissed Mr Curran’s charge, telling the jury that no evidence was presented questioning the authenticity of the documents. “
There’s not a scrap of evidence,” Mr Nolin siad. “What witness told you this is a fake or a fraud? Nobody.”
Sale of Walford
Mr Nolin sought to raise questions about the plaintiff’s credibility by noting the trustee in the case, Richard M Coan, only revealed under cross examination that Nama and Ulster Bank had funded the litigation to the tune of $2 million (€1.8 million) and that Mr Coan’s law firm stood to collect a 3 per cent commission on any collected funds. “The trustee has not told the truth in this case,” he said. “You can assess that.”
Mr Curran called the purchase and sale of Walford for €58 million the couple’s “biggest fraud”. He told jurors that the evidence showed Mr Dunne had always owned the home and said the handwritten trust document was insufficient to transfer it to Killilea. Its convoluted ownership history and complex sale, which involved a Cypriot special purpose vehicle, and Mr Dunne’s failure to disclose the property to Nama, provided further proof of intent to conceal and defraud, he said.
Mr Nolin and Mr Spears disagreed, citing expert testimony that handwritten trust documents can be valid and other evidence they say show the home always belonged to Ms Killilea and that he was flush at the time of the purchase, which took place over 2005 and 2006.
“He made €189 million [in 2005] and he bought her an asset worth €58 million,” Mr Nolin said. “Extravagant, but that’s what husbands sometimes do.” The case now goes to the jury.