Sunday 24 September 2017

Now Banking Inquiry faces two legal challenges

Row with developers could go to High Court and delay report even further

Banking Inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch. Photo: Tom Burke
Banking Inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch. Photo: Tom Burke

Ronald Quinlan and Niamh Horan

The publication of the Banking Inquiry's final report is hanging in the balance with two of the country's foremost property developers separately confirming they will launch legal actions if their concerns in relation to its draft findings are not addressed.

The Sunday Independent understands that both Johnny Ronan and Michael O'Flynn have advised the Inquiry's chairman, Ciaran Lynch, that they will instruct their lawyers to seek a judicial review in the event that their view of the Banking Inquiry report fails to adequately reflect the evidence they provided both in relation to their conduct in business and their experience of dealing with Nama.

In the case of Mr Ronan, it is understood he has warned he will take whatever legal action that is open to him to protect his reputation should the Inquiry decide to omit a statement he provided to it in response to claims made by Nama relating to its dealings with Treasury Holdings.

Mr O'Flynn, meanwhile, is believed to have informed the Inquiry that while he doesn't wish to delay the publication of its final report, he is reserving his rights to seek directions from the High Court under Section 94 of the 2013 Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act, should it fail to address his concerns.

The Cork-based developer is said to have taken issue with the Banking Inquiry on five separate grounds, maintaining it failed to observe fair procedures in relation to its treatment of him, and is preparing to make findings that are wrong, misleading and inappropriate.

The developer is also believed to have expressed his concern that the language the Banking Inquiry team proposes to use in its final report suggests that it is more favourably disposed towards Nama than the developers from whom it heard and received sworn evidence.

It is believed Mr O'Flynn has called on the Banking Inquiry to carry out a detailed review of its findings in relation to Nama with a view to providing a comprehensive account of its impact on the development industry and banking sector.

Mr Ronan, for his part, is understood to have echoed numerous of Mr O'Flynn's concerns in relation to the Banking Inquiry's findings in relation to Nama's dealings with developers.

Mr Ronan is believed to be particularly aggrieved by Nama's account of its conduct in relation to the sale of loans securing Treasury Holding's most valuable asset, Battersea Power Station in London.

In his sworn statement to the Inquiry last September, Mr Ronan claimed that, in 2011, the Malaysian property developer SP Setia had agreed to buy Treasury's debt for its full value and to fund 100pc of the development costs of Battersea Power Station.

Mr Ronan insisted that the deal, had it proceeded, would have kept Treasury afloat and seen the taxpayer retrieve the full amount lent by the Irish banks to his company.

The developer claimed that when the funders asked to meet Nama, the State agency refused to do so unless they received a non-refundable payment of stg£10m upfront.

Mr Ronan said in his statement that he had complained to Nama that no company in the world would pay £10m simply to meet someone face to face.

The talks with SP Setia never went ahead and shortly afterwards, Lloyds and Nama enforced the debt against Battersea Power Station, an event which ultimately saw the downfall of Treasury Holdings.

While Nama submitted a robust response to Mr Ronan's statement to the Banking Inquiry, defending its conduct in relation to Treasury Holdings and Battersea Power Station and pointed out that it had recovered the full value of those loans, the agency did not specifically address the developer's claim that it had sought a fee of £10m from SP Setia.

The Sunday Independent understands Mr Ronan has now provided the Banking Inquiry with a copy of the internal Nama minutes of a meeting which took place on December 6, 2011, which he insists supports his contention that Nama had sought the £10m fee.

Asked if Nama stood over its responses to the evidence of Mr O'Flynn and Mr Ronan to the Inquiry, a spokesman for Nama said: "Nama treats the Banking Inquiry with the utmost respect and seriousness and stands over all of the evidence it provided to the Inquiry on every matter."

Sunday Independent

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