Friday 24 February 2017

Expect agency to bare its teeth more from now on

Siobhan Creaton

The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has secured its first court victory winning judgments against three businessmen, with loans including €280m for the development of the Beacon South Quarter development in Sandyford in Dublin.

This is a significant victory for the agency, which is charged with collecting €70bn in debts owed by Ireland property developers over the next 10 years and comes ahead of 12 other cases against developers who collectively owe €300m.

The other 12 cases will be taken by the five financial institutions that are transferring loans to Nama, including Anglo Irish Bank, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Irish Nationwide and the EBS building society on Nama's behalf.

These cases relate to individuals who are refusing to co-operate with the agency which is seeking to have them shut down.

These courtroom battles mark the beginning of the enforcement phase of Nama's task where it seeks to recover the maximum amount of assets from the borrowers to repay their loans.

It brought the proceedings over guarantees the three provided over loans that included financing their share of the Bank of Ireland's own headquarters at Baggot Street. Details of the loans issued once again reveal the extent to which the banks recklessly lent massive sums during the property boom.

Mr Justice Kelly questioned why the bank had agreed to limit the businessmen's liability under guarantee for the €28m loans to about 5pc of the sum due. And it is now up to Nama to challenge that arrangement.

Over the coming weeks and months, Nama will be bearing its teeth to speed up its task of collecting the billions owed.

Bankrupt

It will inevitably bankrupt some developers, sparking brutal asset sales and probes of the assets owned by the borrowers and their relatives. It is only as this phase unfolds that the true powers of Nama will be tested.

Already it is clear that Nama cannot pursue assets and properties transferred to wives and relatives before the legislation that established the agency came into force in December 2009, which are outside of the bankruptcy laws. It also faces difficulties recovering assets in places such as the Cayman Islands, which are tax havens.

But Nama is charged with doing everything in its powers to recover these monies.

The court cases that will follow will determine how successful it will be and ultimately how much the property collapse will cost us all.

Irish Independent

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