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Desmond firm was paid €1.6m to bring privacy and property disputes to end

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Pat and Dermot Desmond. Photos: Kieran Harnett

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Walford
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Pat and Dermot Desmond. Photos: Kieran Harnett

A State body agreed to the payment of €1.6m to a Dermot Desmond-linked company to settle privacy and property dispute lawsuits, the Irish Independent can reveal.

In one of the cases, the billionaire financier and his children sued a senior bankruptcy official and the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI), alleging information about an agreement to buy a Dublin mansion was leaked to a newspaper.

Neither the ISI nor the official assignee in bankruptcy Chris Lehane made any admission of liability in the settlement agreement and the parties involved agreed to keep its contents confidential.

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However, the agreement became publicly available in the US this week, where it was filed in proceedings connected to the bankruptcy of property developer Seán Dunne.

The settlement resolved three different legal actions, each related in one way or another to Walford, a property on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road.

The mansion became the most expensive home in Ireland in 2005 when Mr Dunne bought it for his then wife Gayle Killilea for €57.9m.

It has changed hands twice since then, most recently being bought by Celtic Trustees Ltd, an Isle of Man trust set up for the benefit of Mr Desmond's children.

However, that transaction became entangled in investigations by Mr Lehane into who had beneficial ownership of Walford in the run-up to Mr Dunne's bankruptcy in 2013.

Celtic Trustees bought the property in 2016 for €14.25m from Yesreb Holdings, a Cyprus-registered company of which John Dunne, Seán Dunne's son from his first marriage, was a director. But a question mark was put over the deal when Mr Lehane registered a legal claim - known as a lis pendens - over the property. The official assignee also issued proceedings against Yesreb, in a bid to recover assets for Mr Dunne's bankruptcy estate.

In 2017, Celtic Trustees sued Mr Lehane, claiming it had good title over the property and seeking the lifting of the lis pendens.

In a further lawsuit, also filed that year, Mr Desmond, his four children and Celtic Trustees took a privacy action against Mr Lehane and the ISI.

The High Court heard this related to the alleged leaking of confidential material to a newspaper concerning an agreement to buy Walford.

All three matters were eventually resolved on confidential terms last February.

The High Court heard the lis pendens was to be lifted and a declaration could be made, on consent, that Celtic Trustees had acquired good title to Walford. No further details were disclosed.

However, the document lodged in a US court this week reveals that under the settlement the proceeds from the sale of Walford, which had been held in Yesreb's Swiss bank account, were dispersed.

Some €1.6m was paid to Celtic Trustees, which acted on behalf of the Desmonds.

It is unclear how much of the €1.6m settlement sum relates to the privacy action and how much to the good title dispute. The ISI said it was prohibited from commenting due to the confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement. Mr Desmond did not respond to queries.

Under the agreement, each party has to bear their own legal costs and it is thought much of the €1.6m will end up going towards lawyers' fees.

Yesreb was paid €250,000. It was not made clear why but it is thought this was a contribution towards legal costs.

The remaining funds in the account, around €10.6m, were paid over to Richard Coan, a US bankruptcy trustee who worked with Mr Lehane to recover assets.

The money is expected to be used as part of the settlement of a fraudulent transfer judgment handed down by a US jury against Ms Killilea in June last year. The jury found her liable as the recipient of fraudulent transfers from her ex-husband to pay more than €18m to the trustee.

Irish Independent

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