Sunday 18 March 2018

Ex-Nama official 'trying to silence me', says senator

Labour's Higgins threatened with legal action

Lorraine Higgins
Lorraine Higgins

RONALD QUINLAN Special Correspondent

A former official at Nama who was responsible for managing some of the agency's biggest and most indebted borrowers has been accused by Labour Party Senator Lorraine Higgins of attempting to "silence" her after she raised the issue of his moving to work for a London-based property investment firm.

Ms Higgins first voiced her concerns in the upper house on May 28 last in relation to the news that Paul Hennigan had left his position as a senior asset recovery manager with Nama to take up the position of partner with the London-based Prime London Partners (PLP).

Following on from that contribution and a statement on the matter which she posted to her website, the Galway senator was contacted directly by Mr Hennigan. In a voicemail left on her constituency office phone, he said: "Would you please arrange for the removal of the highly offensive statement you have on your website. Unfortunately, you obviously have no understanding of the background to this. I might have to take legal matters [sic] into the insinuations you are making."

Ms Higgins has so far refused to remove the statement from her website, and has taken serious exception to his threat of legal action against her, telling Finance Minister Michael Noonan when he appeared before the Seanad last Tuesday that: "There has been an attempt by Mr Hennigan to silence me on this issue and to bully me into submission. . ."

Availing of parliamentary privilege, the senator went on to repeat her concerns in relation to Mr Hennigan, saying: "The conflict that emerges here between this individual and the well-being of the Irish taxpayer and the State is that Paul Hennigan, as a partner of Prime London Partners, brings a huge benefit to this firm in that in his prior incarnation in Nama he would have a vast knowledge of those properties on the Nama loan book, the valuations of those properties and outstanding loans on them."

Contacted by the Sunday Independent and asked for his response, Mr Hennigan said: "Having dedicated myself to Nama and the taxpayer for three years, despite the personal and financial cost to me and my family, it is grossly unfair, insulting and deeply offensive that a member of our Oireachtas, albeit unelected, attributes scandal to my ongoing contractual obligations to Nama and my current employment – both of which she quiet clearly knows nothing about.

"It is my view, it is this type of manufactured and false hysteria that is preventing Nama retaining or attracting staff, ultimately to the detriment of the taxpayer.

"I also wish my ex-colleagues well in their enormously difficult and thankless responsibilities."

It has been reported that his new employers, PLP, are intent on extending their Irish interests, although it is understood that Mr Hennigan will not be involved in this.

According to the professional profile he has posted on LinkedIn, Mr Hennigan's responsibilities at the firm are confined to "working on behalf of a number of investors predominately based in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok with respect to their property portfolio in London".

Prior to his departure from Nama, he had been employed for two years as a portfolio manager with responsibility for recovering monies owed by several major debtors including Derek Quinlan before being promoted to the role of senior asset recovery manager.

Responding to Ms Higgins's concerns in relation to Mr Hennigan's latest career move in the Seanad last Tuesday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan pointed out that all employees of Nama were subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and the NTMA and Nama Acts, all three of which prohibited them from disclosing any of the confidential information they had handled during their time with the agency.

Mr Noonan said the prohibition on disclosing confidential information "applied indefinitely and extended to former employees also".

The minister said Nama was "very conscious of the risk of potential abuse or misuse of information by staff who leave the agency", adding that "the Nama CEO recently noted that the best defence against such possible abuse or misuse of information is to ensure, as Nama does, that assets are openly marketed and subject to competitive sales processes".

Irish Independent

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