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Thursday 18 July 2019

Celtic Tiger developers trying to scam Nama – Taoiseach

Brian Hutton

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has declared concerns that developers could be buying back assets seized by Nama at knockdown prices. Mr Kenny said he had some indications that boom-time speculators who could not repay massive loans - now tied to the taxpayer - were attempting to repurchase their properties at their current prices.

Just over a week ago, the state toxic assets agency dismissed allegations repeated by a Fianna Fail senator about the practice.

Mark Daly had claimed the taxpayer was picking up the bill, running into hundreds of thousands of euro, for the plunging loan values while those who borrowed the money regained their properties at a fraction of the original price.

Speaking at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Cork, Mr Kenny signalled his intention to meet finance minister Michael Noonan about the issue.

"I have had some indications of attempts to acquire property that was taken from developers through a variety of methods," he said.

"I hope that Nama are on top of that, and that where Nama have acquired assets that they don't find their way back to where they were acquired from in the first place."

Mr Kenny said he was "concerned" about the alleged attempts of Celtic Tiger developers using different strategies to take back control of their former property empires.

The Taoiseach added he was very anxious that people make offers to Nama for seized properties so they can be put on the market as soon as possible.

He said this would determine a bottom on the property market.

Nama has refuted the repeated claims by Senator Daly, saying he has produced no proof of the practice when asked.

The senator has accused the agency of not being transparent in its dealings.

He has called for the attorney general to appear before the Seanad on the matter and has questioned why Nama properties are not being publicly auctioned.

Mr Kenny also told the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly the coalition Government was working on a loan guarantee scheme to get Ireland's bailed banks lending again to small businesses.

He said he will press lenders to reveal what loans they are making available to business.

But he declined to give a timeframe for the measures along with the proposed strategic investment bank, agreed as a priority by Fine Gael and Labour when they struck a deal to share power.

"Not everything can be achieved in the first 100 days of office but that is an important element of the programme for government and discussions are ongoing about how best to implement that," he said.

Struggling traders have demanded bailed-out banks "come clean" on the scale of loan refusals after a survey found more than half have been denied vital funding in recent months.

Small businesses claim lenders are returning to their old habits as access to credit plunged to its worst level since the economic crisis began.

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