Saturday 23 September 2017

NAMA 'leaks' investigators can follow email trail

Colm Kelpie and Donal O'Donovan

THE foreign property companies at the centre of a probe into alleged leaks from NAMA are able to track the emails and their movements within the companies' electronic mail systems, the Irish Independent understands.

The preservation of emails is crucial for any investigation either by the National Asset Management Agency or the gardai. The companies which are alleged to have received emails are based overseas, which would have made it difficult to compel them to provide documentary evidence.

A NAMA source said the email trail allows investigators to determine how the information came into their possession and how it was shared within their business.

Officials in NAMA believe that former executive Enda Farrell "cherry-picked" what information to send to whom, depending on what he believed would be of most interest.

NAMA chiefs face an unprecedented grilling next week from TDs over the Enda Farrell case and other issues dogging the agency.

Senior NAMA officials including chief executive Brendan McDonagh and chairman Frank Daly are to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The new head of the committee, Ciaran Lynch, confirmed last night that the Farrell case will be raised on Tuesday.

NAMA officials will be publicly questioned for the first time about the alleged theft of valuable information from the agency by Mr Farrell.

He has been questioned by gardai in relation to the allegations and is due back before the Commercial Court next month.

NAMA says some action has been taken to prevent further thefts, but officials are likely to be questioned closely on whether information is now safe.

Security

"You can take it as read that they have looked at everything that has emerged from this to see how they can tighten it and improve it," the source said.

"There's a balance to be struck between being able to operate normally and being able to have appropriate security."

There is no bar on committee members raising the Enda Farrell case, even if it is already before the courts, he said.

"This is an ongoing saga that raises questions around internal governance at NAMA," he told the Irish Independent.

Members of the committee will want to know if the alleged sending of highly sensitive emails was an isolated case, he said, and will ask what NAMA needs to do to ensure it does not happen again.

While there are rules in place to restrict individual TDs' access to NAMA, none of that applies when it comes to committee level, he said.

The questioning comes after it was alleged in court that Mr Farrell sent information to international investment companies involved in scouring the globe for distressed property markets while he was employed by NAMA as a mid-level executive.

The agency claimed in a Commercial Court case that information about loans and the ownership of properties supporting those loans was unlawfully deployed in the commer- cial property market.

NAMA is conducting its own internal investigation into the alleged loss of highly sensitive information about loans and property controlled by the agency.

TDs at next week's hearing are also understood to be concerned by NAMA's reluctance to be subject to the same Freedom of Information rules that apply to other state agencies.

In July, NAMA appealed to the High Court against a ruling that it should be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

That ruling was made by the Commissioner for Environmental Information more than a year ago, when Emily O'Reilly decided the agency should be forced to be more open under environmental freedom of information rules.

Analysis, Page 4

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