Seán Dunne was sued by wife over €100m

Property developer tells bankruptcy hearing he did not challenge action by Gayle Kililea

Property developer Seán Dunne and his wife Gayle Killilea had a prenuptial agreement drafted in 2004 that would give her assets if their marriage ended but were advised it was not legally enforceable.

He disclosed details of the agreement in his fourth meeting with creditors as the US court officer overseeing his bankruptcy and a lawyer for the National Asset Management Agency, his second largest creditor, examined him on the transfer of assets running to tens of millions of euro to his wife.

Mr Dunne said it was normal for him to draw sums of up to €10 million from his property companies for personal expenditure for himself, his wife and his children. This was "all fairly standard and normal for the times that were in it," he said. His group owed him €220 million at one point, he said.

Personal use

Drawing money from his businesses for his and his family’s personal use was “normal and above-board and ethical and commercial” given the loans owed to him by the group, he said.

"It was true for me, my wife and my children – we are all one," said Mr Dunne who filed for bankruptcy last year in the US with debts of $942 million (€690 million). He has also been made bankrupt in Ireland.

Asked repeatedly about the location of books and records on his transactions, Mr Dunne said he “sold 4,000 properties in my day – I didn’t keep a copy of what I disposed of unless it was required.”

He agreed to a request from his bankruptcy trustee, Richard Coan, to hand over details of every asset transfer made by him in the last six years over the sum of $5,000.

Mr Dunne told creditors at the lengthy meeting in New Haven, Connecticut, he was owed €160 million when his property business, which turned over €550 million at one point, went into receivership in 2011. Disclosing details of deals he completed at the peak of the Irish property market, Mr Dunne said he made a profit of €70 million selling 30 zoned acres at Woodtown in Rathfarnham, Dublin, in 2006 or 2007. It was paid in "hard cash, brought in a suitcase," he said.

"You were joking about that? It was banked?" Nama's lawyer Tom Curran asked.

Mr Dunne said he didn't know what he did with the money – he could have bought more property, given some to his wife, paid off debt or spent some on a holiday or a new car.

Tense exchanges

During terse and at times fractious exchanges

, he said he was so wealthy in December 2008 that Ulster Bank released a loan charge over an asset to "let me do what I want with it – I could have bought a horse with it or went to Las Vegas with it".

Questioned about properties transferred to Ms Killilea, Mr Dunne was asked whether his wife still owned half of the Irish Glass Bottle site in Clonskeagh, Dublin. "Last I heard," he said.

In response to questions from the trustee, Mr Dunne said his wife brought legal proceedings against him in a court in Switzerland in 2010 after he failed to honour their 2005 agreement that he would transfer €100 million, to her.

Asked why the issue could not have been “handled across the dinner table” without resorting to litigation, Mr Dunne said: “You would have to ask her that – I can only account for my own actions.” Mr Dunne said he didn’t challenge his wife’s legal action, noting he didn’t contest Nama’s €185 million or Ulster Bank’s €164 million debts against him when they sought court judgments.

“When I owe money . . . I don’t contest it,” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent