Sean Dunne blames computer illiteracy for failure to disclose emails
Bankrupt developer objects to third contempt ruling in long-running US legal case
Sean Dunne filed for bankruptcy in the United States in 2013 with debts of more than €700 million. File photograph: Collins Courts
Bankrupt property developer Sean Dunne has said he was unable to produce emails subpoenaed in a long-running US legal action because he no longer had a personal assistant and “was not really computer literate”.
Objecting to a third contempt ruling over his failure to disclose records, Mr Dunne’s lawyer told the Connecticut district court in a filing this week that “with scarce resources” the developer has struggled to respond to a 2016 subpoena seeking emails from Gmail accounts about his property dealings.
Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy trustee is seeking the emails as part of a US court action in which he is attempting to reverse tens of millions of euro worth of properties transferred to his wife, former gossip columnist Gayle Killilea.
The Co Carlow developer, one of the most high-profile builders of the Celtic Tiger era, has argued that he gifted his wife €100 million, a fifth of his fortune, more than a decade ago when he was financially solvent.
He filed for bankruptcy in the US in 2013 with debts of more than €700 million.
Magistrate Judge Robert Spector recommended last month the district court judge in the case should hold Mr Dunne in further contempt over his “recalcitrant behaviour” in the handover of emails since first subpoenaed in 2016.
He suggested that as sanction for his contempt Mr Dunne should face “an adverse inference instruction”, an extreme legal remedy that would reverse the standard burden of proof at the trial of the action in May.
Mr Dunne accused the trustee this week of trying to “avoid a decision on the merits of his baseless claims through a game of discovery ‘gotcha’ in the hopes of obtaining the sanction of an adverse inference instruction”.
He acknowledged making “imperfect” productions of emails “along the way” because he had no personal assistant, was not computer literate and the offices of his defunct companies in Ireland had closed.
Mr Dunne argued that the 2005 and 2013 transfers of Walford, the house on Shrewsbury Road in Dublin that he bought for a record €58 million and transferred to his wife in 2005, were “entirely legitimate”.
The trustee did not make any claims concerning the transfer of the property until 2015 or ask for emails about it until 2016, three years after the emails became unavailable to Mr Dunne, he claimed.