Bankers 'lied to public' over extent of toxic property loans

Michael Brennan and Aine Kerr

BANKERS were last night accused of "lying" to the public about their toxic property loans during the continuing debate about the NAMA rescue plan.

The Opposition also raised questions about the lack of prosecutions for the scandalous activities in Anglo Irish Bank, despite the garda and corporate enforcer's investigation having been ongoing for almost a year. The Dail heard that over the same period in the US, 42 bankers have gone to jail.

Fine Gael Limerick East TD Michael Noonan said the banks had misled the public, the Dail and their shareholders over an 18-month period by saying there was "no problem here, no toxic loans".

"If lying was an Olympic sport, we could put out a team of bankers and they would win gold for Ireland," he told the Dail last night.

Mr Noonan also raised concerns about the proposal for banks covered by the NAMA plan (such as AIB and Bank of Ireland) to hold onto toxic property loans of less than €5m to reduce the administrative burden on the new agency.

"We don't have that many multi-millionaires in my constituency but we have a lot of people who would be stuck below the €5m mark. What's going to happen to them? Are they going to be at the tender mercies of bank receivers and will it be open season on the small fellows when the big fellows will be protected?" he asked.


The NAMA bill is currently at second stage in the Dail, which means that TDs can offer comments and make suggestions for improving it. It is not due to go to the next stage -- committee stage where actual changes can be made -- until after Green Party members vote on the plan at a special convention on October 10.

Earlier in the Dail, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore had criticised the delay in concluding the investigation into Anglo.

"Our system of justice, certainly as it pertains to corporate crime, is not the same as that of the United States. In that country they treat corporate wrongdoing somewhat more seriously than we apparently do," he aid.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who is in New York for the UN's Climate Change summit, said both the gardai and State's corporate enforcer were carrying out investigations into Anglo.

"We would like to see them brought to conclusion as quickly as possible and any prosecutions which are likely to arise out of that proceeded with as soon as possible thereafter," he said.

He also denied again that NAMA was designed solely to save "crooked bankers".

"I think there's a strong understanding that in order to have a modern functioning economy that we need a viable banking system," he said.

In the Dail last night, Fianna Fail Dublin South East TD Chris Andrews said NAMA was generally accepted as the best way of rescuing the Irish banking system and had been supported by the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. "Without NAMA the Irish banking system would crumble," he said.