Wednesday 20 September 2017

Noonan under fire over Project Eagle

Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Bloomberg
Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Bloomberg
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The role played by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and his officials in the run-up to the controversial sale of Project Eagle will come under sharp focus today.

Members of the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are expected to sign off on their investigation into Nama's €1.6bn sale of its Northern Ireland loan book.

The draft report, obtained by the Irish Independent, is very critical of the decision by Mr Noonan and his officials to meet representatives from the US investment firm Cerberus, which proved to be the successful bidder.

"The Committee considers that it was not appropriate for the Finance Minister to meet with Cerberus representatives the day before the Project Eagle bid closing date. It could have given the perception that Cerberus was benefiting from special treatment," the report said.

The meeting took place on March 31, 2014.

The same charge was levelled at Nama, whose officials also met Cerberus later that same day.

Former Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan also features heavily in the report.

The PAC states that Mr Cushnahan should not have acted as a financial advisor to a number of Nama debtors given that he would have been knowledgeable about Nama's Northern Ireland strategy.

He should not have remained on the agency's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC), the report said.

"The failure of Nama to seek Mr Cushnahan's removal from the NIAC, following his disclosures in relation to his connections with debtors, was a failing of corporate governance by Nama," it said.

The PAC came down in defence of the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG), saying the body's own report on the sale was "evidence-based, balanced and reasonable."

Irish Independent

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