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Dunne bid to move funds to UK was to avoid paying his creditors, court is told

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Businessman Sean Dunne

Businessman Sean Dunne

Businessman Sean Dunne

Businessman Sean Dunne sought to move a pension to the UK to put it beyond the reach of his bankruptcy estate, the High Court has been told.

According to official assignee in bankruptcy Chris Lehane, the property developer could have used the pension to comply with a court order requiring him to make payments of €7,000-a-month for the benefit of creditors.

Instead, it is alleged Mr Dunne (65) instructed a pension trustee to move the Irish fund to the UK.

Mr Lehane said it was "clearly intended" to put the pension "beyond the reach of the estate and this honourable court" in the event it ordered him to make payments from it.

The official assignee made the allegations in an affidavit filed with the High Court, where he is seeking to have the one-time 'Baron of Ballsbridge' jailed for contempt of court. The matter was briefly mentioned before Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington yesterday and is expected to go to a full hearing later this year.

The Carlow-born developer, who was one of the most prominent businessmen of the Celtic Tiger era, has been involved in protracted litigation in Ireland and the US since entering bankruptcy in 2013 with debts of €700m.

Allegation

In October 2018, he was ordered by the High Court to make monthly payments of €7,000 to Mr Lehane for a period of 32 months. The money was to benefit creditors, but Mr Lehane said not a cent has been paid and arrears now amount to €112,000.

Prior to the order being made the court had been told Mr Dunne was earning $120,000 a year (€104,700) from his ex-wife Gayle Killilea's company Mountbrook USA and €12,000 a year from Amrakbo, another firm she was involved in.

However, Mr Dunne now claims he is earning just €200 a month and cannot afford the payments.

Mr Lehane does not believe the businessman.

In addition to the allegation regarding the instruction to move the pension, the official assignee has claimed Mr Dunne "clearly has access to significant funds" and had put no information before the court to explain how he has funding his lifestyle, travel and litigation.

Mr Lehane said that since last year Mr Dunne had travelled between the US, England and Ireland, something he would be unable to do on €200 each month.

He said Mr Dunne had also engaged solicitors OBH Partners, a Queen's Counsel and a junior counsel.

According to the affidavit, last December Mr Dunne paid a sum of $9,330 (€8,200) in respect of a sanction imposed on him by a US court.

Mr Lehane said Mr Dunne's continued failure to make the payments constituted a breach of the court order, was a serious interference with the official assignee's functions and a civil contempt.

Eddie Farrelly SC, for Mr Lehane, said given the "draconian" measures sought, it would be preferable to put the matter back to allow Mr Dunne time to respond. The motion will be mentioned again in a fortnight.