Ex-Nama official to be called before Project Eagle inquiry
A FORMER Nama official is to be called before a parliamentary inquiry in Northern Ireland over suggestions he helped ensure the agency did not move against certain debtors.
Ronnie Hanna, Nama’s former head of asset recovery, is to be summoned to appear before Stormont’s committee on finance and personnel, which is investigating the €1.6bn sale of the agency’s Project Eagle northern loan portfolio.
The move follows a BBC Spotlight programme which featured a covert recording in which it was suggested Mr Hanna “prevented people’s lights going out”.
The comment was made by former Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan, who is at the centre of controversy over his alleged role in the Project Eagle deal.
At a meeting on Wednesday, MLAs resolved to invite both Mr Hanna and public relations executive Gareth Robinson, son of former Northern Ireland Assembly First Minister Peter Robinson, to give evidence.
A man called Ronnie, believed to be Mr Hanna, was discussed during a secretly recorded conversation involving Mr Cushnahan and Co Down developer John Miskelly, whose loans were previously in Nama.
Speaking about “Ronnie”, Mr Cushnahan said: “People’s lights would have gone out except for him. I mean that sincerely.”
Mr Miskelly said: “You remember when Gareth Robinson phoned me that morning and told me to go to your office and you phoned Ronnie. I know mine would have been out – and I’m not the only one.”
Mr Miskelly later told the BBC the recording of him was accurate, including his belief that Mr Robinson, Mr Cushnahan and Mr Hanna helped protect him from having his “lights put out” by Nama.
He has also been called to give evidence to the inquiry, as has accountant David Gray, who was present when the conversation took place.
Mr Hanna, a former bank official, has yet to comment.
He left Nama in late 2014 and now runs a consultancy business in the North.
Efforts by independent.ie to speak to him yesterday proved unsuccessful.
Mr Robinson did not respond when contacted at his public relations firm.
Mr Cushahan has also not commented and is unlikely to do so, according to his solicitor.
In a statement, Nama said it was not possible for any one official to decide whether or not to drop enforcement proceedings against a debtor.
A spokesman said: “No one individual within Nama has authority to make a unilateral decision to enforce or not to enforce against a debtor.
“A suggestion to the contrary highlights either a misunderstanding or a deliberate misrepresentation of NAMA’s decision-making processes.”