Thursday 22 February 2018

'Noonan sided with my enemy in hotel row' - McKillen

Paddy McKillen
Paddy McKillen
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Property investor Paddy McKillen has issued High Court proceedings against finance minister Michael Noonan, his former secretary general John Moran, Nama, and two of its former employees.

The Sunday Independent understands the proceedings will see Mr McKillen claim that Mr Noonan, Mr Moran and others either instigated or were involved in activities designed to support the billionaire Barclay brothers in their battle against him for control of Coroin, the company behind the world-famous Claridge's, Berkeley and Connaught hotels in London.

The Belfast-born businessman has long been of the view that Nama pursued an agenda against his business interests which he claims could have cost the Irish taxpayer hundreds of millions of euro.

Mr McKillen first locked horns with Nama in 2011 with a successful Supreme Court appeal which prevented the agency acquiring his companies' debts from the Irish banks. Although that decision was hugely significant for the businessman, Nama's sale that year of the loans supporting financier Derek Quinlan's shareholding in Coroin to the Barclay brothers was to trigger a four-year legal fight in the UK which it is estimated cost Mr McKillen Stg£50m to defend.

While Mr McKillen's battle with the Barclays came to an end last April with the brothers' sale of their 64pc stake in the iconic London hotels to the Qatari royal family-backed Constellation hotels group, he continues to pursue Nama for the damage he believes it caused his business.

Earlier this year, the businessman issued High Court proceedings against the agency alleging that certain of its officials breached Section 202 of the Nama Act by leaking confidential financial information about him to the Barclay brothers at a time when the parties were locked in the battle for overall control of Coroin.

The proceedings also include claims that Nama officials allowed themselves to be lobbied in relation to their treatment of the loan facilities relating to the company. Under the terms of Section 221 of the Nama Act, a person commits an offence if they "communicate on behalf of another person with Nama...with the intention of influencing the making of a decision". The Act further states that "any Nama official who believes that they have been communicated with in an improper manner, and in contravention of Section 221 of the Nama Act, is obliged to report the matter to An Garda Siochana". Failing this, the official could be found to have committed an offence themselves.

The case is due to come before the courts early next year. Nama is expected to defend it vigorously.

Separately, Mr McKillen is awaiting the ruling of Mr Justice Seamus Noonan on an application aimed at securing full access to 12 documents whose contents he believes will show officials at the Department of Finance, including its former secretary general John Moran, engaged in "inappropriate" contacts with third parties in relation to his borrowings with the IBRC.

Mr McKillen brought the action after the Information Commissioner rejected his complaint over the Department of Finance's refusal to release the documents to him under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act.

Asked for comment on the proceedings initiated by Mr McKillen last week, a spokesman for the Department of Finance said: "We do not comment on matters before the courts."

Contacted for his reaction, the Department's former secretary general John Moran said he was unaware of the proceedings as he was currently abroad. Mr Moran said that consequently he was not in a position to comment on the allegations being made.

A spokesman for Nama said: "Nama does not comment on matters that are before the courts."

Sunday Independent

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