Tuesday 27 September 2016

'Gardaí wouldn't solve the problem' - Mick Wallace calls for independent probe into NAMA

David Kearns

Published 05/07/2015 | 15:47

Wexford TD Mick Wallace
Wexford TD Mick Wallace

Independent TD Mick Wallace will not go to Gardai over claims that €9.8 million was taken from the sale of NAMA’s assets to pay off a Northern Irish politician.

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The Wexford deputy said passing the information to Gardaí, “who already have too much on their plate”, or a Northern Ireland commission “wouldn’t solve the problem”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week, Mr Wallace accused Government ministers of being too quick to call for the information to be passed on to the relevant authorities.

Read More: Nama faces PAC probe as £7m lawyer stash revealed

“What I would say back to the minister is, how about you initiate an independent inquiry into whether NAMA has actually delivered the best results in the interest of the taxpayer?

“Given that they still have assets to sell, at least cut our losses now, and let’s stop things being done wrong if that’s the case.

“And if things are done right, well the investigation will show that up one way or the other.”

Earlier this week, Mr Wallace told the Dáil how the National Asset Management Agency had sold its entire portfolio for Northern Ireland, Project Eagle, for €1.5 billion to a US private equity firm despite it having originally been worth €4.5 billion.

Read More: €9.8m from Nama sale 'earmarked' for politician, says Wallace

He added that a routine audit of a legal firm involved in the process, Tughans of Belfast, revealed that “£7 million had ended up in an Isle of Man bank account… reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician.”

In response, on Thursday evening, Tughans issued a statement saying it did not comment on internal affairs or its clients.

“In response to the comments made in the Dáil, we can confirm, however, that a former partner diverted to an account, of which he was the sole beneficiary, professional fees due to the firm without the knowledge of the partners. We have since retrieved the money and he has left the practice."

Tughans said it had reported the circumstances of the departure of the former partner to the Law Society of Northern Ireland.

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Wallace said he had details of the politician involved but that he needed to check the validity of his information.

“Contrary to what people might think, I go to great lengths to avoid abusing Dáil privilege” he told RTE.

Read More: Wallace to face grilling in North over €9.8m Nama claim

The Independent TD called for the Minister for Finance to request an urgent report on the sale of Project Eagle, saying: “if the Government wants to put an end speculation around the workings of NAMA, they’re going to have to initiate an independent inquiry.”

Speaking to the same programme, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said deputy Wallace should pass on “any relevant information to the authorities”.

Read More: 'Dáil privilege being used to tarnish good name of gardaí'

Last year the US Investment company Cerberus Capital Management bought NAMA’s portfolio of Northern Ireland-based debtors.

The purchase price was not disclosed at the time but NAMA said it was the biggest single transaction in the agency's history.

In a statement, Cerberus said: "We are deeply troubled by Mr Wallace's allegations and we want to make it clear that no improper or illegal fees were paid by us or on our behalf and we take any allegation to the contrary extremely seriously."

Claims by the Wexford TD regarding the sale were worthy of investigation said the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.

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