Tuesday 6 December 2016

Nama set to defend former senior official over Project Eagle

Published 29/09/2016 | 02:30

Left, Brendan McDonagh CEO of Nama with Ronnie Hanna. Photo: Tom Burke
Left, Brendan McDonagh CEO of Nama with Ronnie Hanna. Photo: Tom Burke

Nama is set to leap to the defence of a former senior executive who has been implicated in the Project Eagle controversy.

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Chairman Frank Daly is today expected to tell the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that no evidence has been produced to substantiate allegations made against Ronnie Hanna, the agency's former head of asset management.

Mr Daly and Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh are appearing before TDs to be quizzed on the sale of its Northern Ireland loan book.

It comes after a damning report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) found that Nama incurred a potential loss to the taxpayer of £190m (€223m) in the €1.6bn Project Eagle sale.

Nama has strongly rejected the findings and Mr Daly and Mr McDonagh's submissions to the PAC, which have been seen by the Irish Independent, show that they will attack the C&AG report and robustly defend the sale.

Mr Hanna was named in the Dáil by Independent TD Mick Wallace as one of two men arrested by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA), which has been probing the sale.

Former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan was also arrested by the NCA. Both men deny the allegations against them.

A BBC documentary broadcast a secret recording in which Mr Cushnahan claimed that he was able to exert influence over Mr Hanna. Mr Cushnahan was recorded receiving a bag with Stg£40,000 from property developer and Nama debtor John Miskelly.

He appeared to suggest that Mr Hanna could help him extract loans belonging to Mr Miskelly out of Nama and divert them back to the businessman.

Mr Daly is to tell TDs that none of those making allegations about Mr Hanna "has produced evidence to substantiate these allegations".

Mr McDonagh will criticise the C&AG report for not providing "any market or expert support" for its view that a discount rate of 5.5pc should have applied to the Project Eagle sale.

He argues that international loan sales experts would have backed Nama's use of a discount rate in the 10pc to 15pc range.

Mr Daly will insist that Nama remains satisfied that the £1.322bn sale price "was the best price achievable".

He is to say that there was "heightened political sensitivity" regarding Nama's work in the North and there was a concern over a fully open sale process which would "freeze activity" there for months.

Mr Daly will refer to the minutes of a January 2014 phone call between Finance Minister Michael Noonan and politicians in the North in which Mr Noonan agreed that "confidentiality was important".

The C&AG, Séamus McCarthy will address TDs on his offices' Project Eagle report.

Irish Independent

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