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bankrupt Seán Dunne to appeal US jury’s ruling he fraudulently passed assets to ex-wife

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Seán Dunne at the Four Courts in 2018. Photo: Collins Courts

Seán Dunne at the Four Courts in 2018. Photo: Collins Courts

Gayle Killilea, pictured at the Four Courts, Dublin, in 2017. Photo : Collins Courts

Gayle Killilea, pictured at the Four Courts, Dublin, in 2017. Photo : Collins Courts

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Seán Dunne at the Four Courts in 2018. Photo: Collins Courts

Bankrupt businessman Seán Dunne is appealing a United States jury’s finding he fraudulently transferred assets to former wife Gayle Killilea.

The appeal comes just over two years after a jury at the US District Court for Connecticut found Ms Killilea liable to pay €18m in damages to Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy trustee.

This included some €14m in connection with Walford, a mansion in Dublin that became the most expensive home in Ireland when it was purchased by Mr Dunne in trust for his then wife for €57.9m in 2005.

Lawyers for the Carlow-born property developer lodged papers a fortnight ago with the US Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit. The move came after the Celtic Tiger era tycoon was unable to get a new District Court trial.

The appeal is expected to centre on the jury’s findings on the Walford issue which Mr Dunne (67) maintains were contradicted by an Irish High Court judge in a later tax case.

He also claims Professor John Wylie, an expert on Irish property law, was improperly precluded from testifying at the US trial.

If the appeal goes ahead then it could add two or three years to the already lengthy litigation surrounding the bankruptcy.

US District Court Judge Jeffrey Meyer said extensive evidence had been offered by trustee Richard Coan to show Mr Dunne actually purchased Walford in his individual capacity in 2005, that a “Declaration of Trust” was fabricated, and that Mr Dunne was the beneficial owner until he transferred it to Ms Killilea on March 29, 2013, the same day he filed for bankruptcy.

However, an Irish tax appeals commissioner found Mr Dunne did not hold an interest in the mansion in March 2013, whether for Ms Killilea or otherwise, and stopped being a trustee in 2006. The conclusion was endorsed by Mr Justice Tony O’Connor in the High Court last May.

Mr Dunne was living in Greenwich, Connecticut, when he filed for bankruptcy with debts of €700m. He now lives in England where he and Ms Killilea (46) divorced in 2019.

The pursuit of his assets sparked lawsuits on both sides of the Atlantic, including a case in which Mr Coan alleged Mr Dunne improperly transferred tens of millions of euro in assets to Ms Killilea to conceal funds and defraud creditors.

The then couple argued the transfers occurred when Mr Dunne was solvent and were not made to defraud creditors but to secure Ms Killilea’s independence and the future of their children.

But the jury found Mr Dunne engaged in an intentionally fraudulent transfer of Walford and held Ms Killilea liable for €14m in damages arising from this. It also found there were other intentional fraudulent transfers for smaller amounts.

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Ms Killilea was reportedly close to reaching a settlement with Mr Coan at various stages since the €18m jury award.

However, matters were complicated when Mr Dunne alleged €11.6m of the settlement funds was owed to a trust for the four children he has with Ms Killilea, a claim denied by lawyers for Ms Killilea. A lawsuit filed by Mr Dunne over the funds was dismissed in June.

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