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“no authority” Court dismisses lawsuit by developer Sean Dunne against son over €11.6m proceeds from sale of mansion

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Sean Dunne pictured at the Four Courts for a High Court hearing in 2018. Photo: Collins Courts

Sean Dunne pictured at the Four Courts for a High Court hearing in 2018. Photo: Collins Courts

Gayle Killilea leaving the Four Courts in 2017. Photo: Collins Courts

Gayle Killilea leaving the Four Courts in 2017. Photo: Collins Courts

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Sean Dunne pictured at the Four Courts for a High Court hearing in 2018. Photo: Collins Courts

A US judge has dismissed a case in which bankrupt businessman Sean Dunne sued one of his sons over the proceeds from the sale of a Dublin mansion.

The 66-year-old property developer issued the lawsuit against John Dunne (33) last year in the US, where his son lives, over €11.6m he claimed was owed to a trust for four of his other children.

However, a judge in Connecticut has concluded Sean Dunne had “no authority” to maintain the action.

The lawsuit put the one-time ‘Baron of Ballsbridge’, a prominent developer during the Celtic Tiger era, not just at loggerheads with John, a son from his first marriage, but also his second wife, former journalist Gayle Killilea, who divorced him in 2019.

The cash at the centre of the row was what remained from the €14m sale by John Dunne’s company, Yesreb Holdings Ltd, of Walford, a mansion on Dublin’s Shrewsbury Road. The funds had been held in a Swiss bank account after the sale.

The beneficial ownership of the property at various times since 2005 has been a key issue in the Carlow-born developer’s dual bankruptcy in Ireland and Connecticut.

Two years ago a Connecticut jury found Ms Killilea should pay €18m to her ex-husband’s bankruptcy trustee after concluding assets, including Walford, were fraudulently transferred to her.

Yesreb became owners of the property in 2013, using a €14m loan from Ms Killilea. The company later sold the property to Celtic Trustees Ltd, a firm linked to financier Dermot Desmond, in 2016.

Following the settlement of convoluted legal proceedings relating to the property last year, John Dunne agreed to release €11.6m from that sale, money Yesreb owed to Ms Killilea, to his father’s US bankruptcy trustee to partly satisfy the €18m jury judgment against Ms Killilea.

But his father issued proceedings in the US trying to block the transfer of the funds to the trustee, claiming the cash was owed to a trust for four children he had with Ms Killilea. This was disputed by John Dunne and Ms Killilea, who insisted the children had “no direct claim whatsoever” to the funds, and that the lawsuit would be “extremely detrimental” to their long-term interests.

In a ruling by the United States District Court for Connecticut on Tuesday, the case was dismissed.

Judge Jeffrey Meyer said Sean Dunne had failed to appear for a scheduled hearing of motions, including one filed by John Dunne for the dismissal of the action.

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The judge said because of the non-appearance, he made his decision based on papers filed by both sides.

He found Sean Dunne, as an unrepresented litigant, had no authority to maintain the action on behalf of his children. “A non-attorney parent must be represented by counsel in bringing an action on behalf of his or her child,” the judge said.

“I will not exercise my discretion to appoint counsel on behalf of the children in light of the several other concerns raised by the trustee and by John Dunne that cast grave doubt on the right of the children to any of the assets at issue.”

The decision came less than a fortnight after the father and son became embroiled in another legal dispute.

John Dunne and four minor brothers secured a temporary injunction at the High Court last month preventing their father from selling or dissipating the proceeds of the sale of two valuable properties at the K Club.

The court heard the properties were assigned to or put in trust for Mr Dunne’s children, but it was alleged he was attempting to sell them for his own benefit. The four minors sued through their mother, Ms Killilea.

Sean Dunne has claimed the action is “a fraud” against him and the properties were not his and belonged to an Isle of Man trust.

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