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Saturday 24 August 2019

Killilea hits back after US court orders her to hand €18m to Dunne creditors

Bankrupt developer Sean Dunne. Photo: www.collinsphotos.com
Bankrupt developer Sean Dunne. Photo: www.collinsphotos.com
Sean Dunne's estranged wife Gayle Killilea. Photo: www.collinsphotos.com

Gayle Killilea has hit back after being ordered to pay more than €18m to a bankruptcy trustee, saying she had been vindicated in parts of the US case.

A jury unanimously ordered the estranged wife of bankrupt developer Sean Dunne to pay the money.

It found that cash and assets were transferred out of creditors' reach as Mr Dunne's property empire unravelled during the financial crash.

The total sum included €14m from the 2013 transfer of ownership and 2016 sale of the couple's Ballsbridge property, Walford.

The jury unanimously found that Mr Dunne had committed "intentionally fraudulent transfers" and "constructively fraudulent transfers" in violation of the US Bankruptcy Code in eight instances from 2008 to 2013.

Protection

The verdict at a court in New Haven, Connecticut, followed a five-week civil trial.

Lawyers for bankruptcy trustee Richard Coan sought to compel Ms Killilea to pay tens of millions of euro she had received from her husband in cash, property and other assets.

Those transfers preceded Mr Dunne's 2013 application for US bankruptcy protection.

The jury found Ms Killilea financially liable, as the recipient of certain transfers, to pay more than €18m. This sum included:

• €14m from the 2013 transfer of ownership and 2016 sale of the couple's Walford property.

• More than €3m in cash transferred in October 2008 from the couple's joint account at Credit Suisse to Ms Killilea's individual account at the same Swiss bank.

• $278,297.18 in July- November 2010 cash transfers between bank accounts in Connecticut.

• €300,000 from the February 2012 transfer of ownership of a Dublin property on North Wall Quay.

The senior counsel for Mr Coan's legal team, Thomas H Curran, said he was "obviously very happy with the result".

Lawyers for Mr Dunne declined comment to reporters outside the court.

In a statement, Ms Killilea's legal team called it "a mixed result", citing potential grounds for appeal and noting that jurors made "no finding of any misconduct or fraud by Gayle Killilea".

The statement said plaintiffs representing a panoply of creditors had sought up to €100m - a headline figure not confirmed by Coan's legal team.

It added that Ms Killilea had been vindicated in claiming sole ownership of many assets transferred by her husband in advance of his bankruptcy applications.

These transfers included his share of a Switzerland condominium portfolio, a US property investment portfolio, "director's loans" drawn against Mr Dunne's ownership of a South African resort and assorted luxury furnishings.

Jurors also concluded that bankruptcy trustees were not entitled to seize the couple's one-time home in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Exaggerated

Ms Killilea's legal team described the €100m figure as "wildly exaggerated from day one" and said the jury may been "confused" on the date she gained sole ownership of Walford, which had been bought in 2005 for €58m.

During the trial, lawyers for the couple said Mr Dunne had transferred assets into his wife's name out of love for her and their children, not to thwart creditors.

The judge and trial lawyers are expected to convene within a week to discuss the judge's own consideration of whether other transfers constituted "unjust enrichment".

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