Seán Dunne offered Bertie Ahern €1m fee to help sell South African hotel

Developer offered the then TD a commission for finding a Chinese buyer for the property

Carlow developer Seán Dunne made an offer to Bertie Ahern in an email that emerged in the recent US court case taken by Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy trustee against the developer and his wife, Gayle Killilea. Photograph: Douglas Healey

Carlow developer Seán Dunne made an offer to Bertie Ahern in an email that emerged in the recent US court case taken by Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy trustee against the developer and his wife, Gayle Killilea. Photograph: Douglas Healey

 

Property developer Sean Dunne offered former taoiseach Bertie Ahern a €1 million commission in 2010 if he helped him find a Chinese buyer for his hotel in South Africa.

The Co Carlow developer made the offer to Mr Ahern in an email that emerged in the recent US court case taken by Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy trustee against the developer and his wife, Gayle Killilea.

The bankrupt businessman told Mr Ahern, then still a Dublin TD, that he would pay him a 2-3 per cent commission on the sale of the Lagoon Beach Hotel in Cape Town, which he valued at about €33 million.

He was seeking a buyer for the hotel after he fell into financial difficulty following the property crash.

Mr Ahern told The Irish Times, through a spokeswoman, that he did not contact anyone in China about selling a hotel for Mr Dunne on the back of his email, “nor would he have those contacts in China”.

Mr Ahern is a regular visitor to China, where he attends annual conferences since he stood down as taoiseach in 2008.

Long-standing relationship

Mr Dunne had earlier, in a March 2010 email, raised the possibility of one of his executives accompanying Mr Ahern, who has a long-standing relationship with the developer, on a trip to China to find a buyer for the hotel.

In the later email, dated April 15th, 2010 – sent after a meeting between the men – Mr Dunne identified three wealthy Chinese businessmen involved in property as “key people in China” that “we should concentrate on”.

He attached a brochure of the hotel in his email to Mr Ahern, which he said was “a good document to forward to anybody you wish to discuss the project with”.

“We would be quite happy to pay a fee in relation to the sale of the property, which in South African terms would be between 2 per cent and 3 per cent, therefore the fee could amount to R10 million [South African rand] – ie €1 million,” wrote Mr Dunne.

Irish bankruptcy

The hotel was never sold and is the subject of an ongoing Irish court case taken by the official assignee handling Mr Dunne’s Irish bankruptcy over his alleged fraudulent transfer of assets to Ms Killilea.

A jury awarded €18 million to Mr Dunne’s US bankruptcy trustee after finding against the developer and Ms Killilea over the illegal transfer of some assets to put them beyond the reach of creditors.

The March email was entered in the case but the judge disallowed the “€1 million commission” email following objections from Ms Killilea’s lawyer.