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Sean Dunne denies ever being beneficial owner of €58 million Dublin 4 property

Dunne said the property was bought in trust for his wife Gayle.

BUSINESSMAN SEAN DUNNE has told the High Court he has never been the owner of and has “zero interest” in a Dublin 4 property known as Walford which was purchased in July 2005 for €58m.

Rejecting claims he has not co-operated with the bankruptcy process, Dunne said the property was bought in trust for his wife Gayle, was her asset and nothing to do with his bankruptcy. There was plenty of documentary evidence from several experts in Dublin to prove this.

The only person who was disputing this “fact” was the official assignee (OA) in bankruptcy, Chris Lehane, Dunne said.

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.

He said Gayle was “never a shareholder, director or bondholder” in regards to any of his assets and “vice-versa”.

The couple never “owned a motor car together,” he added.

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

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 called 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.

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

Dunne was giving evidence in an application by the official assignee in bankruptcy to extend the businessman’s bankruptcy on grounds he has failed to co-operate with the process after being adjudicated bankrupt in 2013.

In 2013, Ulster Bank petitioned the High Court to have Dunne adjudicated bankrupt here after he had defaulted on some €164m loans.

The following month, Dunne filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut in the United States, when he claimed to have debts of $1bn and assets of $55m.

A US bankruptcy trustee was appointed in respect of Dunne by a US court. In addition, the Irish bankruptcy proceedings continued and in July 2013 the Irish High Court adjudicated Dunne bankrupt.

On the second day of Dunne’s cross-examination by Mark Sanfey SC for Lehane, the businessman said that he considered questions about Walford to be a ruse to get at assets that belonged to members of his family.

Dunne denied he had told a lie when he said he “did know what Yesreb did” in an interview conducted by the official signee and his solicitor with the businessman on 29 June 2016.

At that interview he said he was “badgered” and “brow-beaten” which he described as a five-hour long “kangaroo court” and “an abuse of process”.

He said did not wish to discuss Yesreb or Walford at that interview because his wife had asked him not to.

Dunne said while he gave Lehane his principal place of residence he did not tell him where he was living because he “did not trust the man”.

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

During his examination, he said that the OA had acted like “a bounty hunter” and had hired private investigators to discover where he had resided in the UK.

He said that issues raised by the OA about his failure to give a home address were “a red herring”. He had “never hidden” and had always been contactable.

The application to extend Dunne’s bankruptcy continues next week.

Aodhan O Faolain