Saturday 29 October 2016

Nama bosses 'met with investigation team probing allegations of corrupt payments'

Published 01/10/2015 | 12:49

Frank Daly, Chairman of NAMA
Frank Daly, Chairman of NAMA

Nama bosses have met with an investigation team from the UK’s National Crime Agency, which is probing allegations that corrupt payments were planned in connection with the sale of the bad bank’s northern loan portfolio.

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Its chairman, Frank Daly, told the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the meeting took place “some weeks ago” and was attended by himself and Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh.

The disclosure comes after Independent TD Mick Wallace also revealed he had been interviewed by the the NCA, the UK’s equivalent of the FBI.

The NCA investigation was was sparked by claims in the Dail by Mr Wallace last July that over Stg£7m found in an Isle of Man bank account was destined for a Northern Ireland politician or party in connection with the sale of the Project Eagle portfolio to US vulture fund Cerberus for €1.6bn.

A political blogger, Jamie Bryson, subsequently alleged at a Stormont inquiry that the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson was one of those who had been set to benefit, a claim strongly denied by Mr Robinson.

Mr Daly told the PAC this afternoon that the NCA investigation was “not in any way concerned with the Nama side of the transaction”.

He said: “Their focus appears to be very much on the purchase side and what may or may not have taken place in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Daly insisted the sale of the portfolio - comprised of loans issued to Northern Ireland-based business people in relation to 900 properties - was “conducted in line with best international practice”.

He said it was “independently overseen” by consultancy firm Lazard.

“Nama took care at all stages to ensure that the integrity of the process was fully protected,” he said.

“The implication of many of the allegations is that parties in Belfast either had influence over Nama’s decision-making in relation to Project Eagle and/or had access to confidential Nama information that could have afforded certain bidders a competitive advantage in the sales process.

“Let me make it very clear that no pressure from any source, north or south, political or otherwise, influenced Nama in regard to the commercial decision to sell the loans of Nama’s Northern Ireland debtors or influenced the decision to accept the winning bid from Cerberus.”

Mr Daly reiterated his claim that Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC) had no access to confidential Nama information.

This is despite the release of NIAC minutes which showed businessman Frank Cushnahan was present at a meeting in October 2013 where there was discussion about an unsolicited approach that had been made by investment firm Pimco for the portfolio.

Mr Cushnahan resigned from the NIAC the following month. In March 2014, Pimco compliance staff informed Nama that Mr Cushnahan stood to earn a Stg£5m “success fee” should it be picked as the winning bidder.

The disclosure prompted Nama to ask Pimco to withdraw from the sales process, which it did.

“No bidder could have had a competitive advantage over another because all bidders were given full and equal access to all relevant information held by Nama,” Mr Daly said.

“We have no knowledge of what third parties on the purchase side were allegedly saying in Northern Ireland but we can say categorically that they had no influence over Nama’s decision-making, no access to Nama confidential information and were in no position to confer an unfair competitive advantage on any of the bidders in the process.”

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