Monday 16 September 2019

Wallace's pursuit of Project Eagle loan book hits a nerve in Nama

Independent TD Mick Wallace Photo: Steve Humphreys
Independent TD Mick Wallace Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Independent TD Mick Wallace's pursuit of Nama in relation to the controversy over the sale of its €5.6bn par value to US private-equity giant Cerberus appears to hit a nerve with the State agency's officials.

The degree of sensitivity inside Nama's Grand Canal Street headquarters is revealed in an email sent by the agency's own Freedom of Information (FOI) manager to another Nama official on September 10, 2015, and at a time when the scandal over Project Eagle was still in its infancy.

Having queried his colleague on certain details relating to the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book, the agency's FOI manager sent a note, saying: "Super. Thanks for that. The FOI is from Mick Wallace, so I'm trying to close off any angles of attack in advance".

Wallace obtained a copy of the email in question from Nama in response to a freedom of information request, in which he had sought to ascertain the manner in which the agency's FOI unit operated on a day-to-day basis.

Last Tuesday, he raised the matter of the email with finance minister Paschal Donohoe in the Dail. Referring to the Nama FOI manager's statement that he wished to "close off any angles of attack in advance", Wallace said: "That does not sound like a State agency that is interested in transparency and accountability."

Responding to that criticism, finance minister Paschal Donohoe said: "If I were to get involved in that, it would challenge the non-political nature of how these decisions are made in the first instance."

The finance minister added that: "There might well be another context or there might be other matters relating to that decision of which I am not aware."

The circumstances surrounding the sale of Nama's Project Eagle loan book meanwhile remain the subject of a commission of investigation here, an investigation by the SEC in the US, and a criminal investigation by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA). The NCA's director Lynne Owens said last week that eight potential suspects are now under investigation.

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