Saturday 23 September 2017

Nama saga 'stinks', say PAC politicians

John McGuinness, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, enjoys a break before the sitting yesterday
John McGuinness, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, enjoys a break before the sitting yesterday
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Two TDs on the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee claimed yesterday that the sale of Nama's Northern Irish loans portfolio "stinks".

Leaving aside accusations, denied by Nama, that the agency should have gotten more than the €1.6bn it did for the loans, there are a heap of unanswered questions which will require both criminal and political inquiries.

The allegations that a pot of money was set aside by the buyer to make payments on the fringes of the deal are being taken seriously, with the UK's National Crime Agency set to investigate.

The story begins in June 2013 when a US law firm acting for a large investment fund, Pimco, sent a letter to the then Northern finance minister Sammy Wilson.

He was informed that Pimco wished to buy Nama's Northern Ireland loan portfolio.

He in turn passed on the letter to his counterpart in Leinster House, Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Pimco's agenda was to have a private sale of the Northern loans. It didn't want Nama to put them on the open market, as is the agency's policy.

At a later stage it appears Pimco agreed a memorandum of understanding with the Northern Ireland Executive.

The terms of the memorandum would have been very favourable towards Nama debtors and required investment in Northern Ireland.

According to the document, which was circulated to TDs yesterday, the winning bidder would "release all corporate guarantees and security of borrowers" for no payment.

Existing Northern Irish borrowers were to be allowed continue with the day-to-day management of their assets.

The borrowers were to be paid and incentivised "on a proper commercial basis", including the payment of management fees and profit-sharing agreements.

Borrowers were to be given the opportunity to repurchase some or all of their portfolios.

The bidder would also be prepared to commit to a permanent management base in Northern Ireland as well as investing significant funds in developing the underlying assets, using local construction, professional and non-professional services.

Nama was sent a copy of the memorandum by the principal private secretary of the Northern Ireland First Minister, Peter Robinson.

Nama did not engage in any discussions on the letter and Pimco eventually had to withdraw from bidding when it emerged it planned to make a Stg£5m payment to a former Nama advisor.

At this stage it is unclear whether the company which subsequently bought the loans, Cerberus, was asked to give similar undertakings.

However, it is known there was a meeting between Mr Robinson and the former US vice president Dan Quayle, now a senior figure at Cerberus, before the deal was done.

The meeting was not officially announced, and it only came to light this week.

Irish Independent

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