Seán Dunne ‘misled’ Irish bankruptcy official, court told
Counsel says certain answers amounted to ‘clear’ non co-operation
Seán Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy was due to expire in July 2016 but has been extended pending the outcome of the hearing to decide if any extension, which can be for a maximum five years, should be granted. Photograph: Collins Courts
Businessman Seán Dunne “misled” his Irish bankruptcy official and was “as obstructive as he could possibly be” in response to questions about dealings with a Dublin 4 property, the High Court has been told.
Mark Sanfey SC, for official assignee Chris Lehane, who is administering his bankruptcy here, said Mr Dunne gave certain answers to questions during a June 2016 interview with Mr Lehane which amounted to “clear” non-co-operation.
Mr Lehane claims a property called “Walford”, on Shrewsbury Road, is part of Mr Dunne’s estate but Mr Dunne denies that and says he bought the property in trust for his wife Gayle for €58 million in 2005.
Questions were put to Mr Dunne concerning a Cypriot company, Yesreb Holdings, whose ultimate beneficiaries are the businessman’s children, which acquired Walford from Mr Dunne’s wife Gayle in 2013, the court heard.
Mr Sanfey said Mr Dunne gave answers about Yesreb aimed at “concealing information” about a potential sale of Walford, which ultimately did not proceed. Mr Dunne admitted in evidence acting as an agent for Yesreb during the failed sale process, he added.
Mr Sanfey said Mr Dunne’s motivation for his answers was, if Walford had been sold, it would have been much more difficult for Mr Lehane to follow the cash, compared to an asset such as a house.
Counsel said that, during Mr Dunne’s evidence to the High Court, he denied misleading Mr Lehane during the interview but had admitted not giving Mr Lehane details concerning Yesreb, saying Gayle had asked him not to as it was her business.
When interviewing Mr Dunne in June 2016, Mr Lehane lacked information about Yesreb and did not obtain that until December 2016 when he got it from third parties, counsel said.
Mr Sanfey was making submissions in Mr Lehane’s application to have Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy extended on grounds of non-co-operation. Mr Dunne is opposing the application and denies non co-operation on his part.
On Wednesday, Mr Sanfey said the extension was not sought to punish Mr Dunne but rather to protect the integrity of the bankruptcy code.
There had been no co-operation by Mr Dunne with the process until early 2016 when Mr Dunne filed statements of affairs and of personal interests. When those were filed, Mr Lehane learned Mr Dunne was employed by a company belonging to Gayle Killilea and was paid US$120,000 (€98,000), plus €12,000 per year.
While Mr Dunne claimed he had given de facto co-operation to Mr Lehane via his American bankruptcy, the lawyer acting for the official in charge of Mr Dunne’s US bankruptcy, Timothy Miltonberger, had told the court Mr Dunne had not cooperated with the process in America, counsel said.
Earlier, at the close of his cross-examination, Mr Dunne said he had co-operated with Mr Lehane through the US trustee and with the process in America. The US trustee made “a song and a dance” over not being provided with emails concerning a project but that was not relevant to his bankruptcy, he said.
Mr Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy was due to expire in July 2016 but has been extended pending the outcome of the hearing to decide if any extension, which can be for a maximum five years, should be granted.
Ulster Bank petitioned the High Court in 2013 to have Mr Dunne adjudicated bankrupt here after he had defaulted on some €164 million in loans. A month later, Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut 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 High Court here adjudicated Mr Dunne bankrupt.
The hearing resumes on Friday before Ms Justice Caroline Costello.