Dunne fails in Irish bankruptcy application

Friday 06 December 2013 14.11
Sean Dunne was not in court for today's hearing
Sean Dunne was not in court for today's hearing

Property developer Sean Dunne has failed in his application to have his Irish bankruptcy overturned.

Ulster Bank initiated bankruptcy proceedings against Mr Dunne last February, due to default on repayment of more than €160m, loaned to him to buy properties in Dublin.

A month later, the developer filed for bankruptcy in the US, where he now lives and where he claimed to have debts of $1bn and assets of $55m.

Following an application by Ulster Bank, the trustee managing Mr Dunne's US bankruptcy ruled that parallel proceedings could take place in Ireland, saying it would benefit the developer's creditors because most of his properties were here.

In July, the 59-year-old businessman was adjudicated bankrupt by the Irish High Court.

Mr Dunne had opposed that bankruptcy on a number of grounds.

His lawyers claimed there was no legal basis to have him declared bankrupt in Ireland because he had already been made bankrupt in the US.

They argued that the official assignee - who administers the estates of Irish bankrupts - could not agree a protocol with the American trustee.

The Carlow-born developer - who was not in court this morning - said he has not lived in Ireland since January 2007.

The application to have his Irish bankruptcy overturned was opposed by NAMA and Ulster Bank - lawyers for the bank had disputed the businessman's claims that he had abandoned Ireland, and said there was no certainty he would remain in the US.

Ulster Bank also claimed that Mr Dunne continued to have business and property interests in Ireland.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Brian McGovern said he had carefully considered the appropriateness of a "dual bankruptcy" in the case, and was satisfied that there was no impediment to such an arrangement in Irish law.

He said the US and Irish courts would have to determine what laws governed the rights of creditors and priorities in the case.

The judge added that there was likely to be little disagreement as to what law would apply to many of the issues involved.

Mr Justice McGovern said that while Mr Dunne was seeking to have the protection of the US courts, he and his wife were seeking to oust the jurisdiction of the American courts in proceedings brought against them before bankruptcy was declared.

This, the judge said, tended to show a willingness on the part of Mr Dunne to "engage in forum shopping".