Dunne tells court no prospect of Irish return

Developer challenges Irish bankruptcy and says he hopes to work in US

 Property developer Sean Dunne.

Property developer Sean Dunne.


Bankrupt developer Sean Dunne has told the High Court he “cannot currently conceive” of any circumstances where he would return to Ireland and instead hopes to work in the US “into his seventies”.

Mr Dunne (59) said he hopes, following his discharge from US bankruptcy, to work in business in America as he considers it offers the best economic opportunity for his family. He intends to stay in the US indefinitely, “most likely for the remainder of my life”. Of his six children from two marriages, five live in the US and one in Ireland, he said in affidavits.

Mr Dunne made the affidavits in proceedings in which he wants orders overturning a High Court decision last July granting Ulster Bank’s petition, supported by Nama, to have him adjudicated bankrupt here arising from default on €161 million loans made for properties in Dublin.

In opposing the application, Ulster Bank disputes Mr Dunne’s claims he has abandoned Ireland in favour of the US and contends his sworn statements fall well short of showing a clear intent not to return here.

It claims Mr Dunne had told the Irish media, after he filed for bankruptcy in the US, that he intended to return to do business again in Ireland one day and that he and his wife hoped to have their sons educated in secondary schools here. His mother, daughter and siblings still live in Ireland, it noted.

The bank also claims Mr Dunne continues to have business and property interests here and claims that is evidenced by factors including he has an Irish credit card and Irish mobile phone, is involved in a number of court actions here and retains joint ownership with his second wife Gayle Killilea of their former family home at Shrewsbury Road, Dublin.

There was no certainty about Mr Dunne’s continued residency in the US beyond the term of his non-immigrant E-2 treaty investor visa, it said. To qualify for such a visa, Mr Dunne would have to show he is a non-immigrant who has invested or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the US, the bank claims.

Shrewsbury Road
Dealing with those claims, Mr Dunne said the rental of his former family home at Shrewsbury Road to the South African embassy for about €200,000 a year up to 2014 cannot be construed as a business interest. That property is mortgaged to Bank of Scotland, is secured on a €12 million debt and, while once valued at €25 million, is now, he believed, in negative equity.

All those rental payments went directly into his wife’s account with Ulster Bank from which his loan repayments were made to Bank of Scotland, he said.

The hearing continues.