Seán Dunne’s escape from bankruptcy foiled by ‘incredible’ attitude

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Seán Dunne, the once filibuster property developer who embodied the hubris of the Celtic tiger boom and now the ravages of the bust, will be 73 when he finally emerges from bankruptcy.

We are far from the heavily indebted businessman who, in March 2013, at the age of 58, mentioned the possibility, according to American law, of emerging from bankruptcy in a few months, without debt.

The High Court on Tuesday extended his nearly 12-year bankruptcy order – from what was originally set to be an automatic discharge date of July 2016 – until April 2028 for his ‘deliberate and willful’ refusal to cooperate with the official appointed by the court which has been handling his Irish bankruptcy since July 2013.

In a scathing judgment on Dunne’s conduct in bankruptcy, Mrs Justice Caroline Costello said the Co Carlow builder was a ‘profoundly dishonest’ witness who told lies, engaged in ‘total disregard’ of his legal obligations and showed an “incredible” attitude.

“I find it hard to conceive of a bankrupt who could be more obstructive and less cooperative,” she said.

‘Shocked’

Dunne said he was “extremely disappointed and shocked” by the decision, which he plans to appeal.

Extending his Irish bankruptcy to just three months less than the 15-year maximum allowed by law makes his extension the longest by the Irish courts since the post-crisis bankruptcy regime was overhauled in 2012.

Promoter Tullow’s bankruptcy period will end up being close to the periods that insolvent people once experienced under the old regime, when bankruptcy could be a life sentence of debt.

In hindsight, Dunne’s US bankruptcy filing with 700 million euros in debt in 2013 – an effort to circumvent the legal actions of two of his main creditors and the debts owed to them (the National Asset Management Agency for 185 million euros and Ulster Bank for 164 million euros) – backfired spectacularly.

After seeking Connecticut court protection from his creditors, the Tullow builder ambitiously laid out how he could emerge from bankruptcy within six months and pour concrete again at his home one day.

“Like golf, life itself is always about the next shot,” he said. Irish weather in March 2013. Moving on wasn’t so easy.

The Ulster Bank continued its pursuit of Dunne and his debt in the Irish courts and he was declared bankrupt by the High Court four months later. This left him in the unusual position of being bankrupt on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously.

Double bankruptcy

Since then, the double bankruptcies have become a cat-and-mouse game of challenge and counter-challenge in Irish and US courts, and as far away as South Africa where legal attempts have been made to overthrow tens of millions euros of assets. transfers to his wife Gayle Killilea, a former gossip columnist.

Efforts to unravel the transfer of a fifth of Dunne’s wealth in times of prosperity – a 100 million euro gift to his wife in exchange for “love and affection”, he said a day – were fought in Ireland and the United States. Heavily contested by Dunne and Killilea, these actions are now more active in the Irish courts, where Chris Lehane, its official assignee, is embroiled in labyrinthine legal proceedings.

Dunne’s attorneys discussed the draconian nature of the double bankruptcies, but his own lack of cooperation with his bankruptcy officials in both countries extended his time in bankruptcy.

Last week, a U.S. judge upheld a Connecticut bankruptcy court ruling finding Dunne in contempt of court and violating a subpoena for failing to deliver emails to his U.S. bankruptcy manager. The judge referred to Dunne’s “total refusal” to produce emails.

On Tuesday, an Irish judge ruled that Dunne’s actions in his Irish bankruptcy process were “a cynical and misleading attempt to preserve the illusion of cooperation in order to obtain a discharge from bankruptcy”.

In the space of six days, the developer suffered two major blows to its plan to escape its more than decade-old Tiger-era debts.

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