Business Irish

Monday 23 April 2018

NAMA waited one month before gardai alerted on leak

The NAMA team on their way to a meeting with the Finance Committee in Leinster House yesterday included, from front left, head of asset recovery Ronnie Hanna, chief executive Brendan McDonagh, and chairman Frank Daly
The NAMA team on their way to a meeting with the Finance Committee in Leinster House yesterday included, from front left, head of asset recovery Ronnie Hanna, chief executive Brendan McDonagh, and chairman Frank Daly
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Nama waited a month before calling in gardai to investigate the suspected leaking of sensitive information by former employee Enda Farrell, a Dail committee was told yesterday.

The agency was accused of attempting to police itself as a result.

Officials from the state controlled National Asset Management Agency (Nama) confirmed that gardai were alerted to suspicious emails sent by the former employee only after the agency launched an internal investigation and called in Deloitte to assist with a forensic search for information.

"You took on the role of gardai," Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said at the Oireachtas finance committee.

Nama chairman Frank Daly rejected the accusation. He said suspicions in relation to Mr Farrell's emails only came to light as a result of the investigation.

He said Nama wanted to be sure there was a case to answer before going to the gardai. The case is now the subject of a continuing Garda investigation.

A second investigation into a current employee is now also under way, he said.

Mr Daly said the original investigation into Mr Farrell was sparked by a newspaper report in August.

It revealed that Mr Farrell had bought a house and land in Lucan for €410,000 from Thomas Dowd, a property developer whose loans were controlled by Nama.

A follow-up investigation uncovered 33 suspicious emails sent by Mr Farrell to his wife's email account at Ernst & Young, and from there to a personal account of Mr Farrell.

Exaggerated

Some of the information contained in the emails was then passed to up to 10 individuals and institutions, Mr Daly said.

Mr Farrell made no financial gain from the Lucan property deal because he paid full price for the house, Mr Daly said.

The value of information contained in the Farrell emails has also been exaggerated; no personal details about Nama debtors had been leaked, Mr Daly said.

"Some suggestions made about the potential damage caused to our work have been exaggerated, to say the least."

However, Mr Daly accepted that one email sent by Mr Farrell to his personal email account contained details of the price paid by Nama for the loans it controls.

He accepted that this information may now be known outside Nama.

Staff at the agency were "angry and disappointed" at the discovery, according to chief executive Brendan McDonagh. The suspected leaks had "cast a shadow over our work", he said.

Mr Daly and Mr McDonagh endured a bruising encounter with TDs yesterday, largely as they dealt with the fall-out from the Farrell investigation.

Gardai have been alerted that a criminal offence may have occurred in relation to the emails.

The case is also being looked at by the Data Protection Commissioner, to assess whether personal information of debtors may have been compromised.

Nama has tightened its rules in relation to property deals since the Farrell case, Mr Daly said.

Its 200 staff are now banned from buying any property from the agency, with the exception of a family home, but only with the explicit approval of the agency, Mr Daly said.

Properties sold will now be put on the market publicly, where possible, he said.

In future, buyers of Nama property will have to declare any links to staff at the state agency.

Fine Gael's Michael Creed said he could see no reason why employees at the agency, or at the banks, should be allowed to buy any property from NAMA, or why any property should be sold privately.

Mr McDonagh said fewer than 200 of the 3,500 properties sold by it to date were not sold in open market transactions.

On the question of high wages paid to developers, Nama said it is paying €15.5m in salaries to 168 borrowers through its provision of cash to meet overheads.

Three wages of €200,000 each are being paid and 25 more salaries in excess of €150,000; the bulk of salaries are between €50,000 and €150,000, Mr McDonagh said.

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