Bankruptcy official in Dunne case given leave to examine papers

Wednesday 13 August 2014 17.49
Counsel for Mr Dunne argued that Mr Lehane had sought a warrant to search for paintings and valuables, but not documents
Counsel for Mr Dunne argued that Mr Lehane had sought a warrant to search for paintings and valuables, but not documents

The Official Assignee in bankruptcy proceedings against developer Sean Dunne has been granted leave of the High Court to examine family law documents discovered in a search of a house Mr Dunne owned at the K-Club.

Chris Lehane had been granted a warrant of seizure in the luxury Churchfield, Co Kildare property following claims that valuable artwork had been stored behind a secret panel in a bookshelf wall.

Mr Justice Brian J. McGovern, in a reserved judgement, said Mr Lehane, the Official Assignee, was entitled to inspect the documentation.

The judge said the documents had been found last year during a search of the K-club property, in order to ascertain the full extent of Mr Dunne's financial position and the possible existence of assets which could have been concealed from the bankruptcy process. 

In March last, Mr Lehane had been joined as a party to the 1997 Family Law proceedings following which a legal dispute developed about the extent of the disclosure of documentation that should be made.

"The issue before the court is whether the Official Assignee is entitled to examine documents relating to the Family Law proceedings found at the K-Club property and the documents filed in the Family Law case," Judge McGovern said.

The Official Assignee submitted that he stood in the shoes of the bankrupt so far as the "in camera" rule was concerned and he was governed by that rule. The bankrupt had argued that the Family Law papers fell outside the scope of "books relating to the estate."

Counsel for Mr Dunne had argued that when Mr Lehane had sought a search warrant it was for the purpose of searching for paintings and valuables but not documents.

Judge McGovern said that in seeking a search warrant in respect of the K-Club property the Official Assignee had sworn an affidavit in which he stated he had been informed and believed there existed at the property artwork which was the property of the bankrupt. 

He had confirmed that the US trustee concurred with and supported his application and it was clear from the affidavit that the Official Assignee's concern was not confined to the removal of artwork but also "the contents" of the property.

The judge said that the Bankruptcy Act required the bankrupt to deliver up "books of account or other papers relating to his estate" which included "every description of property, whether real or personal, and includes the papers of the bankrupt."

"I am quite satisfied that this includes any Family Law documents found at the K-Club property. I also reject the bankrupt's claim that his rights to privacy are breached if the Official Assignee is allowed inspect the Family Law documents," Judge McGovern said.

Judge McGovern made an order that the Official Assignee was entitled to examine all documentation in relation to the Family Law proceedings.