Developers who put assets in spouses' names to be pursued
'It's unfair to tell taxpayers you're going to pursue them when you probably can't'
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan has revealed NAMA will be able to pursue property developers who transferred their assets to their wives or children in an attempt to avoid paying their debts.
He was speaking after the opposition warned him that the developers had "got ahead" of him by separating a lot of their assets from their debts.
But Mr Lenihan said this could be tackled, using a clause in the NAMA legislation.
"There is power in the NAMA legislation to set aside transactions executed in favour of family members which would attempt to defeat the purpose of NAMA in the collection of the debts. And that's the statutory position on that," he said.
There have been reports of builders transferring assets such as family homes to spouses in advance of bankruptcy proceedings against them.
Fine Gael TD Damien English cast doubt on whether their debts -- which amount to €16bn for the 10 biggest property developers alone -- could be recovered as a result.
"It's unfair of you to tell the taxpayer that you're going to pursue them when you probably can't," he said.
But in the Dail yesterday, Mr Lenihan made it clear that NAMA would have to use its recovery powers to deal with asset transfers.
"The ingenuity of those professional advisers who seek to arrange their affairs to avoid enforcement has to be met by the ingenuity of NAMA in dealing with them," he said.
Mr Lenihan has said that NAMA will be able to make a profit, after 10 years, on the toxic property loans it is buying from the banks at an average discount or "haircut" of 47pc. But the Dail yesterday heard again what Taoiseach Brian Cowen said on September 30, 2008, to justify the introduction of the €440bn state bank guarantee the previous night.
"The banking sector has very well secured loans. . . it is important to make the point that in the event of any further call, it is my intention to ensure that the Irish taxpayer will not be held liable in any way for any deficit that might occur in the event of there being a problem in the future. I intend that the sector will have to discharge any liability that may arise," he said then.
In the Dail yesterday, Fine Gael health spokesman James Reilly raised questions about the role of former Bank of Ireland chief Maurice Keane.
"Is Mr Maurice Keane, who is a director of Anglo Irish Bank, also on a committee to select management for NAMA, to which his bank will be selling bonds and loans? Is this not a gross conflict of interest?"
But Dr Reilly's question was ruled out of order.