Sunday 24 September 2017

Debtor who 'hid assets' from NAMA referred to Gardai

Agency hopes move paves way for non-disclosure prosecutions

Ronnie Hanna (centre), pictured with Brendan McDonagh with Aideen O'Reilly. Photo: Tom Burke
Ronnie Hanna (centre), pictured with Brendan McDonagh with Aideen O'Reilly. Photo: Tom Burke
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

THE National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has referred a debtor, who allegedly tried to hide assets from the agency, to the Gardai in a move that could pave the way for prosecuting those who have not disclosed all their property details to the agency.



NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee it was in discussions with gardai about how to deal with debtors who had apparently tried to prevent assets being transferred to it.

Aideen O'Reilly, the agency's head of legal affairs, then confirmed it was working with gardai on a case against one debtor, which could be a test case for future actions.

"A summary of the evidence has gone to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and we will be meeting with them shortly to assess the evidential weight of what we have been able to give them.

"We intend processing that to a conclusion and there will ultimately be a view from the guards, and probably the DPP, as to whether charges could be preferred.

"It will be a test case to see what level of evidence we can provide the gardai (with) and take their view on the strength or otherwise of it," she said.

NAMA requires debtors to submit a full disclosure of their assets and liabilities when preparing a statement of affairs for the agency. It is an offence to not reveal any assets.

The most recent Comptroller & Auditor General's (C&AG) report on the bad bank's management of loans highlights a number of incidents of apparent non-disclosure of assets by debtors to NAMA.

Properties

One debtor was found to have not declared three properties in the US, four "high-value vehicles", a share of an office building and a "new corporate activity".

Another failed to declare residential property outside Europe, six corporate shareholdings and two racehorses, while a third did not declare a residential property, a creche, and 29 car spaces.

In response to a query from Fine Gael's Paschal Donohoe, Mr McDonagh said there had been suspicions that "some debtors were maintaining a lifestyle not in keeping with their apparent income", while there had also been a number of anonymous tips made to the agency highlighting hidden assets.

"We take it very seriously when there isn't full disclosure, and it usually results in us taking enforcement action against the person.

"Sometimes debtors won't give full disclosure, or they'll say their financial adviser didn't include them. It's like a school kid saying 'the dog ate my homework'."

Mr McDonagh and NAMA chairman Frank Daly maintained the agency had not overpaid for loans bought from the banks despite claims to the contrary.

Prices have fallen substantially since the agency bought the first tranche of loans from the banks in November 2009 but both men contended that house prices will rise by about 20pc between now and 2020 when NAMA is scheduled to be wound down, and the agency was on course to at least break even over its lifetime.

Its current residential housing stock is worth about €2.7bn but is ultimately expected to be worth €3.5bn.

NAMA has sold 45 of the 115 homes it had initially put on the market under the 80/20 mortgage scheme, which defers a fifth of the house payment for five years.

Up to the end of June, NAMA had generated €8.15bn in cash, mostly from repayments from debtors, Mr McDonagh said.

It had given out new working capital of €700m, €600m to banks holding the NAMA bonds used to set up the agency, and had recorded overall operating costs of €260m. The agency had cash balances of a little more than €3bn.

Irish Independent

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