NAMA’s pursuit of the €185m judgment it obtained against Sean Dunne last year, continued in a Stamford Connecticut court room yesterday where the Dunnes are, at this time, trying to have part of the NAMA case thrown out because, they claim, the US courts don’t have jurisdiction to hear part of NAMA’s case. You see, NAMA is claiming that there has been a fraudulent series of transfers between Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle, and the first big transaction that is being questioned, is the purchase and sale of a €4m apartment in Geneva, Switzerland. The Dunnes contend that Switzerland is not the US, that NAMA is not a US entity and that they, the Dunnes, are Irish, so there it is no right for the US courts to hear this part of the NAMA claim.
NAMA has alleged that a series of transactions, including at least three US property deals, have enriched Gayle at the expense of the Irish tax payer. So far, NAMA is not doing very well in its pursuit of the matter. Last summer, the US courts refused to grant NAMA a freezing order which would restrict the freedom with which Gayle could manage her affairs. The judge was critical of the NAMA case, with parts of it based on reporting in the Daily Mail. There is a full hearing scheduled for September 2014 – yes 19 months hence – and between now and then, there may be a series of interim hearings.
Yesterday’s hearing was a win for the Dunnes. The judge reportedly granted the Dunnes the right to “depose” NAMA CEO Brendan McDonagh and NAMA recovery manager John Coleman, though it should be said there is some confusion over the deposition of Brendan McDonagh this morning with sources disputing that aspect of the reporting. “Deposing” involves a person presenting themselves to the lawyers of your opponent, making a statement in relation to the case and being quizzed about the statement and about the case generally. NAMA had previously objected to either employee being deposed, claiming the Dunnes’ request was designed to “annoy, harass and oppress” NAMA. Yesterday, Judge Barbara Brazzel-Massaro sided with the Dunnes, and sometime in the near future, Brendan and John will need submit themselves for up to eight hours each to the Dunnes’ lawyers. Gayle Dunne is also making it clear that she intends pursuing NAMA for damage to her reputation (should the Dunnes win, of course).
It was claimed by the Dunnes yesterday that last week’s deposition of former NAMA asset manager Kevin Nowlan revealed that Kevin, who would have been closest to the detail of the Dunnes’ affairs, didn’t know of any fact to support a claim against Gayle. We don’t know what NAMA’s assessment of the deposition is.
It will reportedly be the 18th March, 2013 when we hear if the Dunnes were successful in having part of the NAMA claim excluded on grounds of jurisdiction. NAMA is fearful that if the Geneva component is excluded, it will make its case weaker because it won’t be able to tie all the components together in the full hearing in 2014.
Not only does Sean Dunne owe NAMA €185m but the Dunnes were the golden couple of the Celtic Tiger property boom, with Sean buying very expensive land in Ballsbridge with a vision of creating a better version of London’s Knightsbridge in Dublin. His glamorous wife Gayle is a former well-known columnist with the Independent. So the case has glamour, money, mansions and allegations of shenanigans so you can expect to see it reported in detail as it proceeds.
Finally, this is a holiday week in the US and unfortunately we were not able to get you live tweets and photographs of the proceedings yesterday. It is hoped that both sides’ documentation for yesterday’s hearing can be made available later.
UPDATE: 28th February, 2013. Although not yet available on PACER, Simon Carswell in today’s Irish Times reports that the judge handling the Dunne/NAMA case in Connecticut has ordered Gayle Dunne to disclose documentation to NAMA. However Judge Barbara Brazzel-Massaro has rejected NAMA’s request for documents going back all the way to 2004 and has instead imposed an order on Gayle going back to 2008, and further Gayle is entitled to withhold any documents – “concerning”, according to the Irish Times – Sean Dunne. It is not clear what “concerning” means because NAMA’s whole case is about Sean’s wealth and its transfer to Gayle, so you would have thought that most documentation in Gayle’s possession would “concern” Sean. So a victory of sorts for NAMA, but with significant strings attached.