Irish property baron Sean Dunne, resident in the U.S. for the past several years, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Connecticut on Good Friday, but is insistent that his financial woes did not contribute to the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy.
Dunne, who relocated to Connecticut with his wife Gayle Killilea and their three young sons after his substantial Irish property portfolio went bust, acknowledged his U.S. bankruptcy claim to the Sunday Independent, but added that he was nothing but a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen while resident in Ireland.
"Some do find it ironic that those who paid their taxes, invested in the Irish economy and lost their shirts as a result, are now pariahs,” said Dunne.
"This conveys the message that if you invest and live in Ireland you are a fool and will eventually be the subject of attack.”
At the height of the Irish boom in 2005, Dunne paid almost $500 million for seven prime acres of land in Ballsbridge, just outside of Dublin city center. Two hotels, Jurys and the Berkeley Court, sat on the land, and Dunne had planned to erect a sk
scraper to include Ireland’s largest apartment and shopping complex in their place.
However, the controversial plans never came to fruition, and Dunne became a target of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, a state-owned bank, and NAMA, the state agency seeking to recoup bad debts.
In his bankruptcy filing, Dunne listed assets of between $1 million and $10 million, and debts between $500 million and $1 billion. He owes money to more than 30 creditors, including the Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank, and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. bankruptcy filings similar to Dunne’s can be resolved within 12 months; similar proceedings in Ireland can take at least three years.
Dunne and his wife have been subject to numerous court actions in the U.S. from NAMA, which claims that the property developer shifted assets into her name.
Dunne told the Sunday Independent that the climate in Ireland is hostile to developers – and that during his career in Ireland he paid more than $130 million in personal taxes.
"If you leave Ireland, invest elsewhere and pay tax elsewhere you are not just a really clever business man, you are a hero,” he said.
"The sum total of this message -- do not invest in Ireland.
"As long as this message permeates, I do not know how the country is going to recover.”
Dunne also apologized for the pain experienced by Irish taxpayers who have been forced to foot the bill for bad debtors.
"The idea that the Irish taxpayer would be made liable for developers' and bank debts was equally incomprehensible and beyond anyone's worst nightmare,” he said.
"I regret any involvement I have had in making life difficult financially for any Irish resident."