Seán Dunne has ‘zero interest’ in Shrewsbury Road house, court told

Bankrupt businessman says he and wife Gayle kept their assets separate

Businessman Seán Dunne has told the High Court he has never been the owner of, and has "zero interest" in, a Dublin 4 property purchased in July 2005 for €58 million.

Rejecting claims he has not co-operated with the bankruptcy process here, Mr Dunne said the property known as "Walford", located on Shrewsbury Road, was bought in trust for his wife Gayle, was her asset and had nothing to do with his bankruptcy. There was plenty of documentary evidence from several experts in Dublin to prove that and the only person disputing that was the official assignee in bankruptcy, Chris Lehane, Mr Dunne said.

Mr Dunne said he came to an agreement with his wife Gayle, following his “messy divorce” from his first marriage, that all their assets were to be kept separately.

Gayle was “never a shareholder, director or bondholder” in regards to any of his assets and “vice-versa”, he said. The couple never “owned a motor car together”, he added.

Under cross-examination, Mr Dunne accepted he had dealt with assets belonging to his wife based in the UK, the US and South Africa, but not in the Republic.

He accepted he was the “driving force” behind several unsuccessful planning applications concerning the Shrewsbury Road property, bar one application in 2013 when he was in the US.

He also accepted he had acted as a broker for a Cypriot company, Yesreb Holdings, whose ultimate beneficiaries are his children, in an unsuccessful attempt to sell Walford, which Yesreb acquired in the months before he was adjudicated bankrupt.

Mr Dunne said he hoped other proceedings concerning the ownership of Walford, which Mr Lehane claims was beneficially owned by Mr Dunne, could be heard by the court “next week”.

Mr Dunne was giving evidence in the continuing hearing of an application by Mr Lehane to extend the businessman’s bankruptcy on grounds he has failed to co-operate with the process after being adjudicated bankrupt here in 2013.

US bankruptcy

A month after Ulster Bank petitioned the Irish High Court in 2013 to have Mr Dunne adjudicated bankrupt here over default on some €164 million in loans, Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut in the United States, when he claimed to have debts of $1 billion and assets of $55 million and a US bankruptcy trustee was appointed.

The Irish bankruptcy proceedings continued and in July 2013 the Irish High Court adjudicated Mr Dunne bankrupt.

On Wednesday, during continuing cross-examination by Mark Sanfey SC for Mr Lehane, the businessman said he considered questions about Walford a "ruse" to get at assets that belonged to members of his family.

Mr Dunne denied he had told a lie when he said he did know what Yesreb did during an interview conducted by Mr Lehane and his solicitor with him on June 29th, 2016.

He said he was “badgered” and “brow-beaten” at the interview, which he described as a five-hour long “kangaroo court” and “an abuse of process”. He did not wish to discuss Yesreb or Walford at that interview because his wife had asked him not to, he said.

Ice cream

While he gave Mr Lehane his principal place of residence, he did not tell him where he was living because “I did not trust the man”, he said.

He did not want the press to know where his family was living, he said. While living in the US, photographers had followed himself and his family to Mass and photographed him buying ice cream for his children, he added.

The Official Assignee had acted like “a bounty hunter” and had hired private investigators to discover where he had resided in the UK, he said. Issues about his failure to give a home address were “a red herring”, he had “never hidden” and had always been contactable, he said.

The hearing has been adjourned to resume next week before Ms Justice Caroline Costello.