Wednesday 7 December 2016

Government under pressure to establish Commission of Inquiry into allegations surrounding sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland loan book

Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

Published 07/07/2015 | 16:03

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he is concerned that “insider trading and political cronyism” was at play.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he is concerned that “insider trading and political cronyism” was at play.

THE Government is coming under pressure to establish a Commission of Inquiry into allegations surrounding the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland loan book.

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Both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil raised deep concern surrounding the €1.6bn sale of the loan book to US firm Cerebus Capital during ‘Leaders’ Questions’ today.

The debate focussed on the fact that a separate firm, Pimpco, withdrew from the bidding process after it brought to NAMA’s attention its concerns about “unsolicited approaches” by a third party.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he is concerned that “insider trading and political cronyism” was at play.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said an independent Commission of Inquiry is “urgently required” and that the inquiry should have powers of compellability.

But taking ‘Leaders’ Questions’ in place of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton rejected the calls for an inquiry.

He said NAMA was set up to recover the maximum value for the taxpayer, adding that the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has staff atatched to the agency.

Mr Bruton said NAMA will appear in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday during which members can ask questions about the issue at hand.

The PAC will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss compelling Independent TD Mick Wallace to give it evidence relating to his allegations surrounding the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland loan book.

The committee will also discuss inviting Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, who has also become embroiled in the controversy.

Mr Wallace refused to accept an invitation to attend a specially convened PAC meeting to discuss the serious allegations he raised in the Dail under privilege about the €1.6bn sale of the loan book to US firm Cerebus Capital.

He claimed an audit of legal firm Tughans, which was involved in the sale, found a secret Isle of Man bank account containing £7m earmarked for political donations.

Tughans claims the account was created by former managing partner Ian Coulter who has since left the company and the money has been retrieved. Tughans insisted the money was not used inappropriately.

PAC chairman John McGuinness wrote to Mr Wallace asking him to discuss his allegations before the committee and hand over any documentation he had which suggested wrongdoing.

However, Mr Wallace turned down the opportunity to fully explain the allegations he raised in the Dail. In a letter to Mr McGuinness he said he believed an independent inquiry was necessary.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr McGuinness said Mr Wallace’s refusal “undermines his credibility and the credibility of his allegations”.

“As a member of parliament you would think  he would make himself available at the first opportunity to come forward and explain and thrash out the detail of the allegations,” Mr McGuinness said.

He added: “There is an onus on him to clear the air because the allegations could have a huge impact on the taxpayer and the public has a right to know

We will have to compel him to provided the document for us to understand the allegations he is making.”

A PAC meeting will be held in Leinster House tomorrow to discuss what action to take.

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