The High Court has granted family members of bankrupt businessman Seán Dunne a temporary injunction preventing him from selling or dissipating the proceeds of sale of two valuable properties located in Co Kildare.
The court heard that the properties had been assigned to or put in trust for Mr Dunne’s children, but it is alleged that he is attempting to sell the properties for the bankrupt developer’s own benefit.
The action has been taken by John Dunne, the businessman's son from his first marriage, along with Seán Dunne's four sons, who are all minors, with Gayle Killilea, who is Seán Dunne's second and now former wife.
The four minors are suing through Ms Killilea. Amrabko unlimited Company, a firm of which Ms Killilea is a director, that has to date spent €577,000 on a house being built at one of the properties, is also an applicant in the proceedings.
The injunction restrains Traviata Ltd, Seán Dunne and Bessilton Holdings Ltd from selling or disposing of the legal and beneficial interests in properties located at 9A and 19 Churchfields, Straffan, Co Kildare, located near the K Club resort.
If any of the properties have already been sold the order also prevents the defendants from dealing with the proceeds of that sale pending the outcome of the full hearing of the action.
The court heard that Traviata is an Isle of Man-registered company, fully owned by the SD trust. It is alleged that Seán Dunne is the settlor of the trust which is allegedly for the benefit Mr Dunne’s children.
The third defendant, Bessilton, is the alleged registered and legal owner of the two properties, but is not the beneficial owner.
At the High Court on Friday evening Ross Gorman, instructed by solicitor Graham Kenny for the plaintiffs, said that the case had a complex background.
Counsel said the properties in 2004 following the settlement of legal dispute between Seán Dunne and Bessilton, one of the properties was to be transferred to John Dunne.
John Dunne, it is claimed, obtained planning permission for the site and counsel said that Seán Dunne made it clear that the site was for John Dunne.
Nothing happened with that site for many years, counsel said.
Eventually, works were commenced on the site John Dunne claims is his by Amrabko, which had expended considerable amount of cash on the project.
It was envisaged that when completed the property would be sold and that Amrabko would be paid from the proceeds of that sale.
John Dunne claims that his father and the first named defendant were aware of that project, and at no stage suggested that there was a problem.
Counsel said that the second site was held in the name of Traviata for the benefit of the children from both of Seán Dunne’s marriages.
Counsel said that in recent weeks his clients became aware that the properties had been put up for sale, but not in the usual way.
No estate agent has been used, counsel said, and the properties were not advertised on the internet. Ms Killilea discovered they were up for sale from a potential purchaser, counsel said.
It is understood that one property has been sold for €1 million, which counsel said was amounted to a gross undervaluation of the property.
Another property in Churchfields was recently sold for €2.9 million, counsel said.
In the circumstances, counsel said his clients believe that the properties are not being sold for the beneficiaries, but rather for the benefit of Seán Dunne.
Undertakings not to sell the properties were sought from Traviata, counsel said, but were not forthcoming.
Counsel said his clients fear the properties will be sold unless restrained by the court.
As Seán Dunne is a bankrupt the Official Assignee (OA) in Bankruptcy was made a notice party to the application. No allegations of wrong doing were made against the OA, Mr Gorman said.
Edward Farrelly SC for the OA said his client was supporting the application for the temporary injunction, but was reserving its position regarding the case going forward.
Mr Justice Tony O’Connor said he was satisfied to grant the temporary injunction, on an ex-parte basis.
The judge stressed that the court had only heard one side of the dispute and had not made any findings of fact.
The court also granted the plaintiffs permission to serve Seán Dunne at his address at Ascot in Surrey, England.
The judge adjourned the matter for a week, but gave parties liberty to apply to have the matter return before the court at 24 hours’ notice.