Friday 19 January 2018

Ex-NAMA official's new employer bought loans from state agency

Graham Emmett: left NAMA
Graham Emmett: left NAMA
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

THE new employer of the most senior official yet to leave the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has acquired property loans from the state agency, the Irish Independent has learned.

NAMA's former head of lending, Graham Emmett, left the state agency in January this year and is now a partner at UK-based real estate investor ICG Longbow.

ICG Longbow bought assets from NAMA in August this year, shortly before Mr Emmett joined the firm, and around seven months after he had resigned from the agency.

There is no question of any wrongdoing by any party to the transaction, but the news is sure to reignite the question of whether rules should be put in place to stop staff who leave NAMA joining rival property firms or firms that are likely to do business with the agency in future for at least a set period.

Multi-million debt

Such "non compete" or "cooling off" rules are common in industry and for some state employees and senior European Union Officials. No such rules apply to staff leaving NAMA.

NAMA oversees €71bn of property loans bought at prices the agency will not disclose.

ICG Longbow bought part of the multi-million debt used to finance the acquisition of London's Ramada Docklands Hotel from NAMA in a deal that is understood to have closed in August.

The hotel is controlled by a joint venture part-owned by Cork developer Barry Harte's Harte Group.

Loans from Anglo Irish Bank used to fund the acquisition were transferred to NAMA when the bad bank was set up. NAMA subsequently sold on the debt as part of its effort to liquidate assets and recover cash for taxpayers.

Sources at NAMA say its deal to sell the loan was finalised over the summer, before Mr Graham became active at ICG Longbow.

A filing with the land registry in the UK shows that Longbow registered a charge over the hotel in August this year.

The charge secures its rights to the property backing the loans in the event of a default on the debt.

Sources at Longbow say there is no question of any involvement of Mr Emmett in the NAMA deal.

A spokesman for NAMA said there are no restrictions on where former employees of the agency can work.

However, the spokesman said that all former officials are bound by the Official Secrets Act not to disclose information acquired while working for the state agency.

Irish Independent

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