Saturday 16 December 2017

NAMA 'destroyed people' by manipulating prices

Property developer Paddy McKillen. Inset: Ex-portfolio manager at NAMA, Enda Farrell
Property developer Paddy McKillen. Inset: Ex-portfolio manager at NAMA, Enda Farrell
Enda Farrell. Photo: Mark Condren
Stephen Donnelly TD. Photo: Gerry Mooney

FRAUD detectives are now investigating allegations that NAMA deliberately undervalued property loans.

It has been alleged that the state body manipulated the price it paid banks for 'bad loans'.

An unnamed former employee said: "I destroyed people with these valuations."

By undervaluing the loans when it bought them, the agency would then stand to make higher profits when they are sold on -- meaning that taxpayers might have paid more to bail out the banks than necessary.

The latest sensational allegations to be levelled at the world's biggest property management company are that staff were "encouraged" to deliberately undervalue property loans.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that the claims were being taken "seriously" by gardai.

The Irish Independent today also reveals that ex-portfolio manager Enda Farrell has admitted leaking information to outside companies but says he was just one of a number of people to do so.

Mr Farrell, who has been questioned by detectives, said he met with a named woman and "gave her everything" on developer Paddy McKillen.

The Irish Independent has already revealed that lawyers for Mr McKillen have written to the Garda Commissioner to complain that "inexplicable behaviour" by NAMA officials has "seriously jeopardised" his business interests.

Separately in the Dail, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin quoted a statement from an unnamed former NAMA employee who said there had been "perfectly good loans written down in value in the banks".

The idea of undervaluing loans was to make executives look good and "to keep the dream alive".

"I was the one they relied on to get the massive low valuations. I destroyed people with these valuations," the statement said.

When NAMA was set up in 2009, it paid €31.8bn to banks for property loans worth over €72bn.

However, the individual prices paid for the loans have never been disclosed.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has appointed a liaison officer to deal with allegations of impropriety at NAMA.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Mr Martin had raised a serious point about the alleged manipulation of property values. Mr Kenny said the kind of activity alleged could not be allowed. "It is a matter of serious concern, given that NAMA has one of the largest property portfolios in the world," he said.

Mr Kenny told the Dail that NAMA would not rely solely on in-house valuations. An independent valuation of all loans, assets and properties being dealt is required, he said.

Concerns have been raised that state spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General, which audits NAMA, does not have enough staff for the task.

Pressure is also now mounting for an independent security audit into NAMA's procedures for safeguarding confidential information. Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said it could be done quickly and at a low cost to reassure potential investors that its procedures were watertight.

"People who are bidding for NAMA assets, we need them to be absolutely confident that their competition do not have access to proprietary information," he said.

The crisis also dominated the agenda in the Seanad where Senator Darragh O'Brien said he intended to send documentation to the Garda Commissioner. "It is a very serious situation if taxpayers are to be on the hook for the sale of performing loans at a discounted rate to preferred bidders," he said.


Paul Williams, Donal O'Donovan and Michael Brennan

Irish Independent

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