NAMA’S case against Gayle Killilea Dunne “is going to be tried in the tabloids and no place else”. That’s the blunt assessment of the former social diarist-turned-property developer’s US attorney, Philip Russell, after going head-to-head with the toxic loan agency’s lawyers in Connecticut last week.
Central to Nama’s claim against Ms Killilea Dunne is its belief that she acquired millions of dollars worth of properties in the exclusive town of Greenwich using money provided by her husband, the erstwhile Baron of Ballsbridge Sean Dunne. The Dunnes, for their part, insist there is no basis to Nama’s claim and say they are ready and able to disprove it in court.
But according to Ms Killilea Dunne’s lawyer, it’s unlikely she will ever have to take the stand.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent after meeting lawyers for Nama last Monday, Mr Russell said it was his view that they were now “hoping they can go back and curl up and make believe this (case) never happened”.
Following a hearing before Judge Douglas Mintz last July, Nama served papers seeking access to documents from the real estate agency Sotheby’s relating to property deals in Connecticut that it believes will support its case. While lawyers for the Dunnes had objected initially to the subpoena, last Monday they withdrew their objection.
Asked to describe what had happened in the case since Nama first filed their action against Ms Killilea Dunne last June, Mr Russell was scathing.
He said: “In June, Nama said under oath that they had an emergency basis to seek an injunction and that they had no other adequate remedy and they needed the court to intervene to stop Mrs Dunne from committing irreparable harm to property which was the property of Nama.
“The judge denied that application in July, but he said: ‘However, I will give you an opportunity to come in and have a hearing on October 22’. So Nama accepted that invitation from the court and we fully expected them to be there with their evidence as to why their claim should not be thrown out or denied again. Essentially, last Monday was the time for them to quote: ‘put up or shut up’.”
Asked to describe last Monday’s events at Stamford Superior Court, Mr Russell said: “When they came to court with four highly paid partners from the law firm of McCarter & English, one from New York, one from Hartford, one from Boston and one from Newark; when they showed up with these four titans of the law, we expected we would have our hearing. What we got instead was that the matter would be postponed until January 15.
“Now, usually in my limited experience, when you call the fire department to report a fire, you don’t tell them when they get there that you’d like them to wait six months before coming into the house. But apparently these four guys from McCarter & English are much smarter than I am. They understand things that I cannot.”
Asked what the response had been from Nama’s US attorneys to offers from Ms Killilea Dunne for full disclosure of her financial affairs on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement in return, Mr Russell claimed: “They scoffed at it. We didn’t want the case to be tried in the press and it is. Apparently from their behaviour on Monday, my distinct impression is that it’s going to be tried in the tabloids and no place else, because later the same day, we resisted the application to go to January, we said we would like an immediate hearing. We said let’s come back in a week and hear it. When we did that, they withdrew their application and said ‘well, we’ll renew it if and when it’s appropriate’ which tells me they’re hoping they can go back and curl up and make believe this never happened.”
Commenting on Nama’s inclusion of newspaper clippings as evidence to support its original submission to the court, Mr Russell said: “It was an embarrassment and it still is. They have pursued every person Mrs Killilea Dunne has had business dealings with.
“They’ve served papers on them and made them sit for depositions under oath as if Mrs Killilea Dunne was someone sinister and as if she wasn’t worthy of credit and didn’t enjoy a good business reputation. We are looking at Mrs Killilea Dunne’s options when Nama either abandon this lawsuit or we convince the judge to dismiss this outright. This case is like Seinfeld, it’s the lawsuit about nothing.”
Asked by the Sunday Independent for comment on Nama’s action against Ms Killilea Dunne and her husband, a spokesman for the agency said as a matter of policy it does not comment on ongoing court cases.
THE NATIONAL Asset Management Agency case against Seán Dunne and his wife Gayle Killilea Dunne reached stalemate yesterday with the lawyers for the developer claiming Nama has no evidence against the couple, while those for Nama were granted more time to seek further documentation.
Nama is seeking to enforce a judgment for €185 million obtained through the Irish courts against the property developer.
Nama, operating as National Asset Loan Management Ltd in the US, filed papers in Stanford, Connecticut, in July alleging Mr Dunne and his wife had “utilised a number of lawyers . . . and shell companies to hide assets from creditors”, and asked Judge Douglas Mintz to freeze the couple’s assets. This request was refused on the grounds the documents provided by Nama were insufficient to prove its argument.
Nama subsequently served papers seeking access to documents from the real estate agency Sothebys relating to property deals in Connecticut that it believes will support its case. Lawyers for the Dunnes had objected to the subpoena but yesterday withdrew that objection.
Lawyers for Nama, who have not yet been able to access the documents they requested in July, had been expecting to argue that case before a judge yesterday morning.
Attorney Peter Nolin, representing Mr Dunne, told the court that all documents falling within the scope of Nama’s subpoena would now be produced.
The attorney representing Gayle Killilea, Philip D Russell, told reporters yesterday that the couple had originally intended to litigate against Nama’s request but subsequently decided against it.
“Sothebys will go ahead and furnish the documents. We walked away from that fight,” he said. Mr Russell went on to say that Nama was on “a fishing expedition” insisting there was no evidence to back up the agency’s claim.
Nama’s case hinges on a December 2010 “statement of affairs and declaration to Nama” signed under oath by Mr Dunne, in which he disclosed information concerning his financial affairs but omitted details of the transfer of his one half-share of an apartment in Geneva to his wife in February 2010, which he sold a month later for Swiss Francs 5.3 million (€4.7 million). The agency also alleges that the couple, operating through a string of limited liability companies, has bought and sold a number of properties in Conneticut using funds diverted from Mr Dunne’s former property empire.
Attorney Peter Nolin yesterday claimed that there were jurisdictional issues relating to the Geneva property and that Gayle Killilea Dunne had bought the Connecticut properties without involving her husband. “She has her own money,” he said.